PCN members have told PCN Chair that we need to value all workers
the average hourly wage for many care staff is £8.10... One in four social care workers are on zero-hours contracts
My working life as a parish priest meant that I was familiar with care and nursing homes, seeing individual residents, sharing communion services, enjoying a Christmas carol sing. But a few months ago I saw a care home in a different light – my mother at the age of 102 went into care. She is a healthy centenarian with a sound memory and a love of people and for the last six years, after giving up her own home at the age of 96 to live with us, we have looked after her needs. By last December we all decided that mum would be safer in full time care because she was too vulnerable to leave alone for any length of time- she could have fallen, there could be an unwanted visitor at the door and so on. Many readers of this newsletter will have had similar experiences in their families.
ut going into care isn’t easy for both resident and family. Will she settle? What will the staff be like? Will they treat her with dignity, with patience, with sensitivity? Our anxieties soon disappeared for after five months I can only say how wonderful all the staff have been. All the residents have days filled with care and activities – special parties, birthday celebrations, times in the garden, even specially adapted bikes to take the residents out for a spin!
These ‘carers’, as we call them, work a 12 hours shift. Many have their own families to also look after. They know how to help wash the residents, to help them choose their clothes, to make sure they have a good diet, to administer their medication, to listen to their stories, to help them keep in touch with their families. In short they are family. And these carers alongside hospital staff are the ones we applaud every Thursday evening.
And yet……the average hourly wage for many care staff is £8.10. One in four social care workers are on zero-hours contracts and 70% earn under £10 an hour according to the TUC. 80% of care workers are women and the average age is 43. Such has been the poor level of pay and the low esteem of this sector that there are about 120,000 vacancies, often reliant on overseas staff who will find it increasingly hard to come to the UK in a post Brexit world.
What changes do we wish to see in a post Covid society? So many PCN members have replied that we need to value all workers, to remember those whom we today are calling ‘key workers’ are often the lowest paid and least respected – until that is a pandemic makes us realise what we really do treasure – the care of loved ones, the full supermarket shelves, the emptying of our refuse bins, the post delivered to our door. It has taken a pandemic crisis to bring issues of social and economic justice to the fore. This week, a poll published by the Fawcett Society found that 65% of respondents supported a rise in income tax to fund a pay rise for care workers.
Surely we need to have a complete overall of our economy, a more just distribution of wealth , a fairer system of remuneration and yes, a big hug (when we can) for the care worker who becomes ‘family’ to people like my mum.
Please let me have your thoughts on how our ‘key workers’ should be valued and your experiences of their work. Just continue the discussion below.