PCN Newsletter 28th May
In our tenth newsletter we hear from Adrian Alker about the need to value all key workers.
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.
But 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 hour 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.
Thank you PCN members for your views on a post-Covid world. Please continue to send your thoughts and articles to Sarah, do write a piece for this newsletter or write a blog. And remember this article will be on the website so you can join in the conversation.
Next time we will look at issues around the environment and what lessons we have learnt from this dreadful global disturbance.
Adrian Alker, Chair, PCN Britain
It’s Sunday so I’m wearing smarter clothes than yesterday’s old gardening attire. Lockdown has distorted my perception of time because one day is similar to all the others. I need some sort of rhythm to help me recognise where I am; my pill-box is my best calendar! Without reference points we feel lost, we yearn for a familiar and comfortable routine.
Now, at the age of 86, I‘ve had a long life, full of events that give me many memories. I know that what I do remember did happen – or did it? My most vivid memories of childhood are about summer holidays, warm, sunny, time to play in the woods with my friends, secure and happy. Of course it wasn’t always like that. There were wet days, little to do, few books in the house, no ‘entertainment’ for children. We looked at the sky and longed to see ‘a patch of blue, large enough to make a sailor a pair of trousers’. Perhaps we are designed to remember most vividly the good times to preserve our sanity.
When communism collapsed, most people in Eastern Europe looked forward to a new life of greater freedom, happiness and wealth. However, when things didn’t turn out to be immediately as they hoped, some were tempted to wish for a return to the ‘old’ days of security, hardship perhaps, but they knew where they were. The new life was full of uncertainties where they had to work things out for themselves; no longer were they told what to do in most aspects of life. They were in uncharted territory of which they had no direct experience.
We read, in the Old Testament, of many occasions when, having escaped an oppressed life in captivity, the Israelites looked forward to a new and better life. However, when things didn’t turn out quite as they hoped or imagined, they longed for the old, familiar and secure life. They forgot the difficulties and problems of the old and only remembered the good times. Prophetic voices called them to look forward to a vision of life lived in harmony with God, each other and nature.
We are currently in a time of transition and there are voices calling us to a better life in harmony with each other and the natural world. We look back and see how we have abused others by our lifestyle, wasted resources by greed and extravagance, polluted land, sea and air to the point of causing illness, both physical and mental, but always expecting others to sort out the mess. Harmony is a blend of differences for the greater whole, not uniformity.
We too are at a point where we can change things. Will we listen to the prophetic voices or will we drift back to the old, comfortable and familiar life? It is our choice, both as individuals and communities. We must not leave it to others to sort out. A vision of what’s possible is emerging. There will be problems and uncertainties but we should focus on the positive and move forward.
David Kemp, PCN Member
I must confess that I am not a patient person, I can be patient but it takes great effort on my part. This lockdown has tested my patience. My patience has been tested by my daughter insisting that if Dinky Donkey is worth reading once, it is worth reading half a dozen times. My patience has been tested by the lady in the supermarket who, despite there being a queue of people waiting with appropriate social distancing to grab their curry supplies, spent close on five minutes browsing naan bread before deciding she didn’t want any. My patience has been tested by seeing people locally breaking the lockdown while I and my family give up much to keep it.
My patience with this situation has mostly been tested by not being able to see the people that I care about. A friend of ours who lives alone developed Covid-19 early on and had to nurse herself through a nasty illness, we weren’t able to be there. We haven’t seen my parents in months and as they live in Wales the recent relaxation in the rules doesn’t apply to them, my daughter is desperate to see them and asks for them daily, she certainly doesn’t understand the need for patience.
So when I heard that more relaxations to the rules were planned I was hopeful that maybe the time had come when we could have more contact but instead I find I will be able to go shopping for non-essential items. I must say that for me, of all of the things that I have found it hard to give up, shopping is not one of them.
But I suppose that I should take my blessings where I find them and while I wait to be able to see and hold my loved ones I will now at least be able to browse in an appropriate, socially distanced, masked manner for a good book to help pass the time. I just hope that the lady from the supermarket isn’t there.
Sarah Guilfoyle, PCN Britain Administrator