Considering How Vital Care Is


vitalcareConsidering How Vital Care Is, and How Much the Industry is Worth, it’s Shocking That Workers Are So Underpaid and Undervalued. The most recent issue of Chartered Management Institute magazine features an article written by Baroness Denise Kingsmill upon which she reflects on a recent review she has completed of pay and conditions of care workers due to be published this month – Taking Care. More famously known for her past report on the unhealthy working environment for models in the fashion industry, which got nicknamed the “Skinny Model Report”, she doubts that care sector working conditions will receive as much publicity or controversy even though the effects are much further widespread. Denise states that “Care is not a glamorous occupation” and goes onto talking of the realities of care work; the engagement with numerous people with multiple conditions for only short bursts of times and follows onto emphasising the importance of care work in our society. Questioning that if this is the case, then why are care workers “undervalued, underpaid, undertrained and under regulated” with no status, regulation or registration. “This workforce of 1.5 million people is almost invisible”. Throughout her investigations the phrase “I’m just a care worker” appeared far too often, not accounting for complex feeding methods, use of hoists in moving clients, dressing wounds, administering medication and providing vital emotional and domestic support. “It’s not a job for the faint-hearted and it’s certainly not ‘just’ a job”. Care workers are ultimately subject among the worst conditions of any workers in the UK. Universally wages are either just meeting national minimum wage, although this is often ignored by employers not taking into consideration how long it takes for domiciliary workers to travel to their clients. Pay at its best is rarely any more than 15% above minimum wage. On top of the poor rates of pay involved throughout the care sector, most care workers will not know what hours they are working from week to week. “Zero-hours contracts play a huge role in the sector and destabilise workers’ lives”. Since the Care Quality Commission’s requirements for qualifications have been reduced, this has led to qualifications being patchy, training varying considerably with no real common framework for care workers. This has led to the workforce being older workers or migrant workers as young people are reluctant to enter a profession where there is little means of progression. “Care is in crisis”; far too often, the poor conditions for workers often leads to a poor quality of service for clients. One reason for this may be the pressure of austerity measures on local authorities in recent years, leading to underfunding for care workers and service users alike. The Taking Care review looked greatly into the ways of improving the care sector without increasing funding, however the need for funding still echoes all sides and is almost overwhelming. “Underfunding is a false economy: if we truly valued care, there would be less need for vulnerable people to go to hospital, a benefit to the public purse and to service users”. The Training Body – Skills for Care estimates that the care industry is worth £43billion to the UK economy and this is growing due to increasing ages of the population. Even taking this into account the sector is characterised by the few smaller businesses dependent on local authority budgets, not helped with larger companies such as Southern Cross Healthcare, who operated 750 homes and employed 41,000 staff, until it closed down in 2012 with huge debts – ultimately giving the sector a reputation for bad financial management. As well as the financial detriments faced by the care sector, it is also tainted with accounts of abuse highlighted in both the Orchid View Care Home and the Old Deanery Home undercover footage, first hand experiences and employee descriptions  that have come to light over the last year. “Given that it is likely that most of us will need paid-for care in the last two years of our lives, it’s a sector that merits a brighter light being shone on it”