My life as a day centre worker

A Cardiff day care worker, and member of Unison, explains the demands of their important job, against a background of austerity cuts.

Of all the many cuts inflicted by local authorities over the past few years, the elderly have arguably been the victims of the cruellest, yet least protested, closures – those of day centres.

I consider myself lucky that our centre has escaped the axe so far and is currently undergoing something of a revamp, albeit in ‘partnership’ with outside charities and non-profit making organisations. This doesn’t exactly give you a sense of job security, but at least it means the future of the service users is safe for the time being.

However, understaffing also means that we close at 3pm so most staff have other jobs or, as with myself, have to claim in-work benefits to make ends meet for their own family.

On a typical day the attendees start arriving at 9am and gradually the centre fills up over the course of the next hour. We really are a lifeline for a lot of our clients, who have a mixture of cognitive and mobility issues. Many have no family living nearby or support network.

We provide them with baths, haircuts, social interaction and a hot meal.

If we weren’t there for them, they would be totally isolated. We have new projects planned over the coming year such as “reminiscence pods” – little pop-up rooms with nostalgic themes – and we have even just got signed up to Spotify so that we can do more music therapy for those with dementia.

As well as this, I have to cover reception throughout the day, plus coordinate the meals on wheels deliveries as we also cook and deliver these from the centre.

We have had to take on more and more extra tasks over the recent period, as other centres have closed. But we only have a capacity for 25 clients a day.

I truly love my job, I love the people we look after and the difference we make to their lives. However, it’s not a “statutory service”, and with the austerity cuts we always wonder if this year will be our last.

The government is always telling us that we have an ageing population to justify raising the pension age. But when it comes to providing the funding to ensure that services like ours are not just kept open but are developed and expanded to meet the growing need, it is conspicuously silent.