‘I feel frustrated by the lack of value placed on the work we do’

A home care worker describes the impact her working pattern is having on her life…

Picture (posed by model): Cultura/Rex Shutterstock

I have worked in the home care sector for 11 years, all of them with the same care agency. I do this job because it’s important and I’m passionate about providing good quality care.

My working pattern looks something like this: I work 10 days in a row. I work a lot of split shifts, where I start at 8am and finish between 9 and 10pm, with a break in between. Sometimes this break is two hours long, other days it’s a mere 45 minutes. I regularly finish work at 10pm and I’m back on the road the following morning for 8am. I have four days off each fortnight.

I get paid £9.17 per hour, but I don’t get paid holiday time. The hourly rate includes a rolled-in holiday pay amount of £1, so in reality I only get paid £8.17 per hour.

I also don’t get paid any travel time. That’s a sore point. One day I was given five hours of actual visits but with the travel time included I was out at work for seven hours. If you calculate those five hours at £8.17, I earned £40.85. But if you then divide that by the seven hours I was actually working, I earned just £5.83 per hour. That’s below the minimum wage.

I feel forced to work 60 hour weeks, paid for only 40 of them, just to make ends meet.

Mileage is paid at 45p per mile but only for the miles between service users’ homes. I don’t get mileage if I travel home when I get a break or when I go back out for the second shift. Sometimes I have 45 minutes to an hour between calls but it’s not worth going home considering the petrol I will use and not get paid for. It’s not like I earn enough to spend this time in a coffee shop so I sit in my car. This is frustrating and uncomfortable.

The job is having an impact on my health. I have a bad back and so in cold weather, it is particularly unpleasant and painful spending long periods in the car. I don’t get enough sleep. When you get in after 10pm, you need to eat and spend some time switching off. I often don’t get to bed until after midnight and my alarm is set for 6.30am to start the next day.

I’m often so exhausted that I sleep very heavily and I wake up not feeling rested at all

I don’t eat properly, some days there is time for no more than a piece of toast. I have irritable bowel syndrome and my GP encourages me to eat regular balanced meals and reduce my stress as a way of managing the condition. That’s hardly possible at the moment.

I feel frustrated with the pay, the travel time and frankly the lack of value placed on the work we do. I don’t have enough time to spend with family. I see my parents rarely even though they live only 6 miles from me, my brothers even less. As for socialising with friends, time constraints and low pay make that a rare occurrence.

I’m sure many of you are reading this and thinking: Why doesn’t she quit? But making a small difference to someone every day, seeing a service user smile, receiving gratitude from their families keeps me going. I do this job because I care. I just wish someone cared about us.

 

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5 Responses to ‘I feel frustrated by the lack of value placed on the work we do’

  1. Gerald December 16, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Care Homes have had this problem for years.

  2. Paulo December 17, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    It’s slightly depressing to see stories about burnout, feeling worthless or poweless to government change. I have been reading these type of headlines since I qaulified in 2008.

    Time to change to a more positive narrative.

  3. Davy Jones December 17, 2015 at 11:29 am #

    You do the work because you want to – not to have your ears tickled…

  4. Mary December 17, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    I am so impressed with this level of commitment to doing a good and thorough job. I desperately want to encourage this person because I know how important and needed their input is. I am just a Social Worker without this level of commitment I could not do my job. I could not encourage people to accept services.
    However, I am desperately sorry at how hard this work is for ‘front line services’ reading this made me feel so sad, because I feel like this, there is never enough hours in the day. No one cares that we are the invisible careers. I have never left work thinking forward, I am always thinking about the people I work for and hoping and praying that they will get through. Without these ‘front line’ service providers I would never sleep

  5. Angel January 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    You carers do some of the hardest work and give some of the most commitment and yet you are taken advantage of this way, i have to find a way t make a petition against this rubbish has continued for far too long, you have no right to be treated like a slave, this is almost as if your well-being doesnt mean anything at all . You are so very committed, at least you love your job ad centre the clients so you treat them with the love and respect all people deserve, I am sorry things are like this for you and those in the same boat as you, I pray and may would agree that this would change and promptly too !