Unison issues charter to end low-wage, by-the-minute home care

Union urges councils to sign pledge to improve working conditions for home care staff and dignity in care for service users.

Most staff say their schedules mean they have to rush visits, found Unison


Unison’s ethical care charter: key demands of council commissioners

  • Time allocated to visits should match client needs.
  • Visits should be scheduled so home care staff do not have to rush time with clients or leave early.
  • Staff should be paid for travel time.
  • Staff should have permanent contracts not zero-hour contracts.
  • Staff should be paid at least the living wage (£7.20 outside London and £8.30 in London).
  • Staff should receive regular training and the opportunity to meet colleagues to share best practice and limit isolation.

Source: Unison’s ethical care charter


Unison has launched an “ethical care charter” urging councils to end rushed, undignified home care visits and low wages for staff.

The union’s campaign comes off the back of a survey of over 400 home care staff that found 46% felt they frequently had to rush their work or leave clients early to make their next appointment because of their schedules, while one-third said this happened to them sometimes.

Clients at risk

Unison members said rushed visits and packed schedules for staff were putting clients at risk, depersonalising care and leading to clients receiving less care than they paid for. It is the latest in a string of reports to highlight the problem of undignified home care, but also drew a link between poor care and poor wages and working conditions for staff.

The survey found 56% of staff were paid between the minimum wage (£6.08 an hour at the time of the survey) and £8 an hour, while 58% were not paid for travel time. “The responses showed a committed but poorly paid and treated workforce which is doing its best to maintain good levels of quality care in a system that is in crisis,” said Unison.

The charter is targeted at councils in their commissioning role, and includes calls for improved wages, travel time pay and schedules that allow staff to spend sufficient time with clients (see right).

Review short visits

To achieve its aims Unison called on councils to meet with their providers to review short visits and staff rosters, and examine the costs of turnover rates and any opportunities for providers to collaborate on areas such as training.

Unison is calling for councils to sign up and has promised to publish the names of councils who do. The charter won conditional support from provider representative body the United Kingdom Homecare Association.

“With adequate investment from central and local government, we endorse the overall objective of Unison’s ethical care charter as a positive step towards securing sustainable, high-quality, homecare services,” said UKHCA director of policy Colin Angel.

Empty promise

“However, any authority that signs-up to these principles without adequate funding of independent and voluntary sector providers will be making an empty promise than cannot be delivered.”

The charter follows the government’s pledge to end the commissioning of care by the minute or in time slots that are too short to deliver dignified care. Councils will not be forced to change their commissioning habits; rather, the Think Local Act Personal partnership will work with them to spread good practice.

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There is no care in stopwatch social care: one home carer’s view 

Service users at risk as home care cuts shorten visits

Home care breaches human rights, finds equality watchdog

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