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Issue #1676      March 11, 2015

Giving so much to so many – For very little in return

An anonymous care worker describes her daily grind of overwork, impossibly timed appointments and insecure employment

7am

It was a struggle to get out of bed today. This is the 15th consecutive day that I have worked. I have to work extra shifts to be able to pay for essential repairs to my car.

Without it I can’t travel to see all my clients and would have far less money to live on. Yet the company I work for provides no petrol allowance for the miles I travel or money for the increase in my car insurance.

7.30am

My first call today is to help a lady out of bed. It is a two-person job because she is very disabled.

When I arrive I notice that her commode hadn’t been emptied the night before and had been placed right next to her bed. How she has managed to sleep is a wonder.

We have been given one hour to assist her but it usually takes much longer.

8.30am

Mrs M is fast asleep when I arrive. I offer her a drink to help her wake up. Today it takes 25 minutes to get her out of bed and use the toilet.

As this is a 30-minute call this only leaves me with five minutes to give her medicine, get her washed and dressed and make her breakfast.

I hate the fact that we are allocated so little time to spend with people and it is shocking when you read about some care visits being reduced to just 15 minutes.

I would never leave a client because I have gone over their allotted time. I make sure I carry out all Mrs M’s tasks as required and leave 20 minutes later.

This makes me almost half an hour late for my next appointment but what choice to do I have? I want my clients to feel cared for and valued.

10am

Mrs C has dementia and often needs more assistance than is currently in place. I offer her breakfast and a cup of tea and check the house is safe. She has no family nearby and suffers from agoraphobia.

The three care calls she receives every day are her only social contact. I make an effort to sit and chat with her while she has her breakfast.

12pm

As we are very short-staffed in some parts of my region I have been given some new clients to attend 15 miles away. The trip alone takes 25 minutes. So far today I have spent an hour driving and it’s only lunchtime – one hour of my day at work that I don’t get paid for.

Like many care workers on zero-hours contracts I don’t get any money for the time I spend on call and travelling between appointments. This often means that I work for effectively less than the minimum wage.

1.45pm

By the time I arrive at my next client it is 1.45pm and the lady is very unhappy with my timekeeping.

I apologise and explain how far I have come. I can feel my head pounding knowing that I am going to be late for the client I have to see next.

I sit with the lady while her daughter goes shopping. I am half an hour behind schedule and I know I am going to be late getting back home for my children. I phone around and get my 76-year-old neighbour to sit with my children so that my husband can go to work.

3pm

When I finally get home, it is great to see the kids as they were in bed when I left. I haven’t seen my husband since the night before.

Being on a zero-hours contract and on such a tight schedule makes balancing my family life a real struggle. It is the school holidays and I would like to be at home with the children but I can’t afford to be.

It is getting harder and harder to be a carer in this country. We need to put more money into the system and treat staff and clients with more respect or services will continue to deteriorate.

Sign the Unison petition to catch the criminal care employers and end the scandal of illegally paid care workers.

Morning Star

Next article – Proud to call myself a feminist – You should be too

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