Local government delegates heard harrowing stories about the state of home care in the UK as it called for councils to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and for Labour to pledge to bring the service back in house.
And Labour councils should not wait for a Labour Government before stopping privatisation and putting an end to zero hours contracts.
Home care workers spoke of long hours in privatised companies, of visits to vulnerable people of as little as two minutes and a Sevacare worker spoke of earning just £3.75 an hour.
One was reduced to tears as she spoke about the challenges of the job, being subject to abuse by some service users, with no understanding from management and at the end of the day – poverty pay.
Aberdeenshire’s Kate Ramsden told delegates they are lucky in Aberdeenshire that home care services are delivered primarily in-house
“As a branch we have worked very hard to keep them in-house but we’re not complacent”, she said, “And we’re watching the new Health and Social Care partnership very carefully to make sure that they don’t seize on any opportunity to privatise.”
In-house services home care services are well valued by the community they serve.
“And our home care members work hard to provide a high quality service and do their best to challenge any attempts to compromise that”, added Kate.
“That’s not to say things are perfect. Our members still tell us about 15 minute sessions, without the time needed to do what’s required and no time at all to chat with the service user even though they may be the only person they will see that day, or week even.
“And they have no base for a cup of coffee or a pee for that matter having to use the local Tesco store. We’re working on that one!”
Despite the Scottish Government’s commitment – even backed up by cash – to ensuring that services commissioned by Scottish councils are paying staff the Scottish Living Wage, the council, despite warm words, has still not signed up to the Ethical Care Charter
“But at least we can take up issues on behalf of our home care members. At least we can call on the council and the Health and Social Care Partnership as the employer to step up to the plate and address these issues.
“Much harder when you are dealing with a private for profit firm!”
In-house home carers enjoy far better pay, conditions and support than their colleagues who are outsourced and as a result they can provide a far better service to their vulnerable service users and have more confidence to advocate on their behalf.
Calling on the Labour Party to pledge to bring these services back into house where they are subject to democratic accountability, she said: “Of all services, those to our most vulnerable citizens should always be about people not profit.
To applause, she added: “And if railways can be renationalised then surely home care services can be too.”
Aberdeen City’s Deirdre Macdonald reported that her branch won adoption by the council, the health and social care partnership and the local authority trading company of UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter in February.
“We are in the process of negotiationg how we can be involved in and inform when care is being commissioned. It came as a surprise to the head of commissioning that one of the companies on the framework has been known to sack our members by text!”, added Deirdre.
“Also those working a waking night get a very poor rate of pay. There is a recognition that we in the UNISON branch have something valuable to contribute and we are trying to work out the most effective way to do this.”
The branch funded a day of workshops open to all carers in Aberdeen private, voluntary and public sector companies. This was to do some myth busting for carers about to come into scope for registration with the SSSC. This was a hugely successful day attended by 112 carers who came from 12 different companies operating in Aberdeen – all but one relevant company operating in the city’s private, voluntary and public sector.