MPs gathered in Westminster today to debate how to improve the terms of conditions of home care workers and, in turn, the quality of services. It was reassuring to see cross-party support for overhauling a system that sees up to 200,000 home care workers effectively paid less than the minimum wage (according to Unison figures).
“Action is desperately needed on the terms and conditions of care workers,” said Andrew Smith (Labour), who kicked off the debate. He pointed out that zero-hours contracts in particular presented real problems for the continuity of care.
Simon Hughes (Lib Dem) echoed Smith’s concerns: “I have had care workers troubled by their ability to do their job come to see me. In my experience, such workers are troubled by a combination of not having enough time to look after the person they are caring for and no adequate account being taken of travel time, which means that they are in effect paid below the minimum wage to do a job that they cannot carry out sufficiently and that often there is no continuity of care from a particular individual for a vulnerable, normally elderly person.”
Smith said one care worker in his constituency (Oxford East) had chosen to go back on Jobseeker’s Allowance, because he was actually financially better off out of work.
Of course, many of Community Care’s readers will already be well aware of the difficulties facing home care workers. But what I found particularly interesting were the six solutions proposed by another Lib Dem, Andrew George, at the end of the debate:
- Encourage care providers to offer at least a living wage for workers: £7.20 per hour and £8.30 in the London area.
- Travel time between visits should be part of salaried time.
- A mileage rate should be set and shared by all.
- There should be a minimum visit time of 45 minutes in very exceptional cases and at least an hour for most visits, especially if it involves at least two of the following procedures for non-ambulant or semi-ambulant clients: getting out of bed; dressing or undressing; toileting; feeding; washing and mobility support.
- An efficient and effective arrival and departure reporting and recording system should be introduced.
- Care workers should be registered.
He concluded: “With that kind of support, I believe that we can give home care workers the proper status and support that they richly deserve.”
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