I am a community care worker. Or at least I was. I worked for a
community team and visited people in their homes, usually for
monitoring purposes but sometimes for shopping trips and other
Working alone in the community makes us vulnerable. Clients have
their favourite workers and sometimes clients and their families
are working to slightly different agendas from ours.
About seven months into my job a client alleged that I had not
visited them on a particular date, even though I had documented the
visit in the notes. I was hauled before management and asked to
explain myself. Since then the same client has said the same thing
about two other workers but still management did not order any
further investigation and it remained on my record.
Next came the one day I arrived to an empty office to find I had
forgotten my wallet and had no petrol in my car to do my visits.
In order to do my job, I borrowed some clients’ money that we keep
in our office. I replaced the money soon afterwards. For this I
received a verbal warning for “using money belonging to a
vulnerable client for my personal gain”. I have since discovered
that had I not done this I would have received a warning for not
having any petrol and for not being able to do my job.
Then came the final indignity. A client alleged again that I had
not visited them. The first I knew of this was from a letter sent
to my home when I was off with flu. I was called into a meeting,
questioned for 45 minutes and treated like a criminal. I could
remember the visit down to what the client was wearing, but I was
not believed and was sacked.
After leaving a permanent job with prospects to take what I thought
was my dream job, I now face losing my home, my car, my prospects
and my future.
The accusation against me seems, on the surface, trivial. A client
could not remember watching Home and Away with me. But
what if it had been a serious allegation? Theft, fraud, assault or
even sexual abuse? These kinds of allegations are made every day
against community workers. If we cannot expect support or even the
benefit of the doubt from our managers, should we be putting
ourselves in the firing line day after day?
I was offering support to about 30 clients but when I needed
support and looked to my manager, it did not arrive.
People who are community-based are risking everything daily. You
risk attack, you risk being made a scapegoat if things go wrong and
you risk all kinds of allegations. One allegation and you could
lose everything as I have – and I do not know how I will
Has the tide turned so much that managers cannot, for fear of their
own jobs, give support to their workers? If that is the case those
of us at the front line deserve to know.
David Myers is a former community worker.