Sunday 13 April 2014

Why we should all support the creation of a National Social Care Service

With people living longer who are sick, funding social care is very hard. One of the actions of the current government which is very controversial is the way that they propose to fund the care of the elderly. According to The Telegraph 340,000 people entitled to home help will soon get none.
It doesn’t surprise me when I hear horror stories about the way people in care area treated. When the state cannot afford to provide a public service they often sub-contract it out to a for profit agency, usually the one who claims they can do it while charging the government the least. The result of this is people working for private care providers aren’t properly trained because the company operates on a ‘for profit’ basis; so any training beyond the bare necessities is in their eyes a waste of money, and cuts into their balance sheet.
This is also why people working for private care companies are often not paid well. I am personally aware of 3 legal loopholes that are used to avoid paying the national minimum wage to people working for private care companies in the area where I live.
The first is regards to agency work, a care home will need people to cover a shift and will ask a temp agency to provide the cover offering the NMW to the worker sent, of which the agency wants a ‘finder’s fee’ which they deduct from the already minimum wage.
The second is regards to community care; a care worker is working an 8 hour shift (for example), but they are informed that they are only ‘at work’ when they are actually inside a client’s home, the time spent travelling from 1 clients home to another counts as travelling to work, not work itself – so the worker gets paid a fraction of what they actually work. When the cost of keeping a car on the road is factored into this equation such employment becomes almost pointless, earning a few pounds per week above what they would be entitled to on state benefits.
The final one is regards to working night shifts at some elderly residential homes. At night most people would expect a worker to get a wage enhancement for working anti-social hours, but no… there are some care homes which don’t do this, in fact they don’t even pay night staff a ‘wage’, they pay them an ‘on call rate’ after the residents have gone to bed which is a fraction of the minimum wage and enhance their pay to the NMW for each our that a resident is disturbed or in need of assistance.
So I cannot help but wonder if any subcontracting of state care to private companies will inevitably result in abuse or mal-treatment due to poor training, and poor conditions. Care is a high-responsibility job, yet many carers are paid low wages… well no: the minimum wage of for minimum responsibility jobs, the major high-street supermarkets pay people a few pence an hour above the NWM to stack shelves, some of the smaller chains pay over a pound an hour above the minimum wage. And yet if someone wants to work in care, they have to have the lives of vulnerable and sick people put into their hands for a pittance? Where I ask in the incentive to do that I can’t help but wonder?

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