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.