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Home care worker, poor pay and conditions

Who could afford to work as a home carer?  Well I tried, for about six months and in the end I had to leave because I couldn't afford to stay on.  The company, a national one with council contracts really sold the job to me at my initial interview.  The pay didn't seem too bad at 7.30 an hour, plus free training (not something I would have expected to pay for, anyway) and the chance to do NVQs.  I don't drive but I do have a bike - they told me that all my clients would be in the city centre, 'within walking distance of each other'.

What they DON'T tell you at interview, is that in fact that you are only paid (by the second) for the time you are in a clients house.  You have to 'log in' (using the clients phone) and log out, when you arrive and leave.  If you log out more than three minutes over the allocated time (appointments are usually for either 15 or 30 minutes)you are not paid, unless there is a good excuse - client requires paramedics for example.  And as for all my clients being in the city centre, I was all over the city because they only had TWO in the city centre.

So here's how it is.  I leave home at 6.30 am (and I DO live in the city centre); half an hour of cycling to the first client for a 15 minute call and then another half hour cycle to the next client in the city centre.  This is followed by another half hour for two more clients, both in a suburb of the city and so on... getting home at around midday, sometimes 12.30 to 1.00pm.  I will then go out again for the evening calls at 5pm, visiting the same clients for 15 minutes each all over the city.  I will usually get home at around 7.30 - 8.00 pm (four clients, 15 minutes each).

A care worker, cycling to work No pay for time spent travelling between clients...

No pay is given for the time you spend travelling between visits which works out at more than the time you spend IN the homes!  In the week before Christmas my wages were 54 for five days work.  Travelling by bicycle or car wont make any difference and the company is unable to keep it's staff because of the way it pays.  Without the staff, it cannot get the clients and so the vicious circle continues.  It also means that the quality of care is driven down.  The company cannot afford to sack staff who fail to turn up at clients houses or who are otherwise incompetent.

Whilst I was working, there was one other carer who routinely failed to keep his appointments, leaving his clients without their medication, without food or with beds unmade.(some of these clients were incontinent), yet he was not sacked.  The company did not have anyone to cover his calls and without carers, would inevitably have lost their lucrative council contract.

In the week before Christmas, this particular carer went abroad. One of his clients, an elderly muslim man with altzeimers was placed on my rota for 'personal care' which involved help with showering.  Because of his religion however, he had specified that he did not want a female carer, so when I rang the office I was told to 'take him off' and not to visit.  They continued to place him on my rota for the next month and the night before my last day they called to ask me if I had been going.  'No', I replied, 'I was told not to - he's a Muslim and he does not want a female carer.'  'Oh, that's alright', the manager said, 'He's been told to expect a female.'  So the next day, I cycled out to his home (45 mins. from the centre) only to be told when I arrived there, that he DIDN'T WANT A WOMAN!!!  This makes me an hour and three quarters late for my next client on the other side of the city, whose son has arrived to take her out and who has cancelled the call by the time I get there.  I don't get paid for either call.

So it is us, the carers, and the elderly or vulnerable who suffer whilst the profit making care agencies continue to rake in the money.  Part of the initial training involves "awareness of clients' cultural sensitivities".  If this company had any genuine regard to cultural sensitivities, it would have returned that muslim man to the council in order for them to have placed him with an agency who could have provided him with a male carer.  Instead, he was left for a month and a half with no care at all.

It's an absolute disgrace.  If there are any people out there with television or radio connections, please consider putting together a documentary about the state of home care in this country.  Elderly people, many of whom suffer from dementia and cannot speak for themselves, or who are simply ground down and resigned to missed appointments, lateness and general incompetence are suffering invisibly.  They do not want a constant flow of different carers that don't stay in the job because the pay is so bad.  It is unsettling for them and upsetting to be always on the verge of losing someone they have got used to.  My clients were extremely upset when I left and I was sad to leave them too.

Gripe over - I have a decent job now where I am paid properly.  The misery, however, continues for carers and clients right across the country and I want people to be angry about it.

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I was working for a healthcare agency and thought the pay was so bad that our workers were the only ones affected. Like a lot of former careworkers, I can't contemplate going back after maternity leave because I can't afford to subsidise their business by paying for the petrol use partly out of money I need to feed my children, especially given the fact that I was sent long distances for visits. Add to that the fact that half the time I was working wasn't even paid because travel time is excluded and the fact that wear and tear on my car was more frequent. We were paid just 20p per mile in petrol expenses - this is a THIRD of what council careworkers were getting, at a time when petrol prices were half what they are now. When care was managed by councils, expenses staff were paid covered all their petrol for work, all the wear and tear on their vehicles, the hourly rate was better AND they were paid for travel time. As a result, it was difficult to get a job with them. Now there is a high staff turnover and bad carers who should be sacked but who employers can't afford to sack because of lack of staff - pay cheap money and expect cheap quality. Also expect to be harassed out of hours to do another shift on top of working the last 10 hours without a break, and the agency don't care if you've got a family to look after or if it causes tensions. Getting so much as a day's holiday is also a struggle, requiring a month's notice. Again, because of lack of staff. So what staff there are throw sickies, which puts an unbearable strain on those that are left to cover. Also, a lot of agencies so-say have a system of bank work, so inevitably workers will choose to work social hours, leaving huge staff shortages at weekends and on evenings. If all that isn't bad enough, don't make the mistake of being a live-in carer. I took on a visit that involved working with a live-in carer from another agency. She told me that when she was due to finish her week as a live-in, the agency couldn't find a carer to replace her. She ended up staying at the client's house for TWO MONTHS without a day or indeed ANY time off. She collapsed with exhaustion in front of the client one day, vomiting and was even told by her employer she had to stay while they found a replacement, even though she was in dire need of medical attention herself. This is happening all over the country. Only when care is serviced by workers employed directly by councils, they are paid in full for their petrol and wear-and-tear expenses and their travel time will the problem of care staffing problems be resolved.

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kittykath - 17-Apr-14 05:15

I have worked in homecare for nearly 10 years and it is getting to the point where i can no longer afford to do the job, i use my car for work and sometimes do over 100 miles of travelling at weekends and many more during the week, it costs me £160 a month in petrol but also there is also the cost of maintaining a car. Recently 7 healthcare assistants left the company because the could not afford the petrol, that is half our care staff. Its ridiculous, its becoming a joke. I think it is about time someone stood up to these unscrupulous employers and make them pay a decent allowance to their employees!!!!!!!!

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lulu - 31-Mar-14 13:55

I walked out on my job as a carer this morning. I started working for the company a week ago. I requested part time hours - yesterday, I was booked to work from 7am until 11pm without a break. That is a whole 16 hours, of which I will be paid for 7 hours work. Absolutely disgraceful! I was called over and over during the day and requested to "squeeze in" more clients. Where on earth was I supposed to squeeze them in??? It is little wonder there are so many awful carers out there. They simply haven't the time nor the motivation to do the job well.

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Jen - 16-Feb-14 14:57

Care Work is rewarding Job Leonard Cheshire Pay Staff £6.32 Min Wage a Hour, Expect you to Work Long Days 7:30am Till 9:30pm 13 Hour Shifts, Also They Charge you £54.00 For A Criminal Records Bureau Check Why Should Staff Have to Pay for That. They Do Not Mention That to After The Interview. you are contract of 32.5 hours but get 3 week rotas no regular pattern would not no what was working on the fourth week to much change.

they need to value the service users more by valuing the staff in particular not charging the CRB Check to Staff,
they Also seem to be promoting being a leading provider are you really though,

can not wear Jeans For Work But can wear Tracksuit Bottoms don't see the reason in that, I would think wearing jeans was more professional.

got to say after induction pay stays the same no rise like other companies normally offer extra after induction,

the Job Pays Less then the local supermarket when lot more responsibility with changing leg bags, providing continence care, showering, bathing, toileting.

there needs to be a more focused approach more support for service users like having the time to spend with them rather then rushing to another room in the setting. most of these service users have no friends and family been able to run things would help

when the setting charges a fortune £20 an hour for hydrotherapy and managers salarly starts at £39.500 when cares on £7,000 but take off tax national insurance bus fare but £5,000 a year not much difference if not working.

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mystery - 10-Feb-14 15:13

I have worked in the industry for over 10 years both as a home carer and also as the registered manager of an agency. This is a really depressing article because it is so true, i have met dozens of home care workers who all echo the issues highlighted in this article. Social care and in particular the home care industry has been badly hit by competitive tendering for contracts to provide care services for local councils. In my experience councils will always opt for the cheapest tender which is often around half the price it would cost the council to provide the same service if it employed its own carer workforce. This means that independent home care providers will typically look at cutting costs such as not paying staff travel time or travel expenses and any other work related benefits. what this effectively means is home carers are actually receiving well below the minimum wage as they are only paid for hours in the clients home and not the 2-3 hours travelling they will often be having to do every day. Another favorite of agencies is the zero hour contract which means that if the work is not there then they do not have to pay their employee, it creates a situation where carers feel obliged to say yes to any offer of work they receive as they feel such job insecurity. Free training is offered by most of the home care agencies i know as an incentive to attract staff; however this is a joke as providing this training is a legal obligation anyway for the home care agency. With all this going on is it really such a surprise that staff retention figures are so low in the social care industry and that stories of horrific abuse emerge from time to time from this sector? My feeling is nothing is going to change very soon in this industry, politicians as well as local councils will continue to give clever soundbites to the media about improving care whilst continuing to bury their heads in the sand about the huge and difficult issues facing social care in this country.

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Matt - 13-Jan-14 17:37

i have worked as a home carer for 16 yrs, just walked out of my job after a break down. it breaks my heart to read stories and i get so angry!! i worked with one carer who drove me about drunk!! i refused to get in the car most days and when i reported this nothing was done !!!! cannot sack a driver !!!! i also worked with another carer who had only just passed her driving test, the poor girl ended up driving the wrong way up a road, we had traffic hurtling towards us!!! i was a senior carer and got stuck in with carers helped them as much as i could and shared my passion for this job.
the pay was sad £7 an hour and like most on here no pay for travelling.
i never wanted a mega wage just fair pay for the job i do. i was used by my employer calling on me to sort things out and train new carers all the time for no extra pay. i was forced to leave my flat and moved back home to family, i could not live on my wage. desperately searching for a good company that actually cares for the people they employ and the elderly

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robo - 22-Dec-13 15:05

What really hacks me off is not paying carers travel time. We are still working when we are walking/biking and driving from client to client. We can do 4 hours biking in one day just going from place to place. Minimum wage is not being paid to carers. There are few care companies that pay travel time. Its not fair on us at all. Midwives, nurses doctors social workers etc all work out in the community. I bet they get paid. I think the reason i get so angry is my 6 hours are spread out between 6.45am and 9.15 at night and i have no time to pop home for longer than an hour in between lunches and teas. I cant eat proper food cus ya lucky to grab toast on ya break. I love the job side and im a good carer but im always unhappy with how much is put on me. I really think the government should change this so all carers are paid from the start of there first call till there last wed have alot less to moan about if w got a decent wage

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toomuchtravelling - 17-Dec-13 15:26

I've worked in home care for a few months now and I'm not criticising the experiences of the writer, but it is fair to the industry to say that you will have a tough time if you're not a driver. Also, some companies you wouldn't touch with a barge pole and obviously you make it your business to find out the reputation of a care provider before you apply for a job. I'd say this company was exceptionally bad, particualrly concerning the treatment of the muslim gentleman and it must not be forgotten that clients can of course change providers if they aren't happy with the service.

It should also be noted that it is an extremely tough and demanding job. Quite often you're required to deal with misconceptions and a degree of discrimination before you even begin any caring duties. This is garned through the bias in publications by our media which, of course favours bad news over good. It makes relations between the client and yourself quite awkward and I know this to be true because it has taken me usually a few weeks before I've been able to gain a clients trust, at least enough to have more open communication with them. This is imperative in this sort of work because caring is a lot more than what the actual care plan tells you to do.

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Liz - 5-Dec-13 18:14

Hello,
I'm writing an article on thsi subject - would anyone be interested in sharing their story with me?
Thanks
Mark Piggott

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Mark Piggott - 4-Dec-13 13:37

Why not just stop working as a domestic care worker and simply recruit more Philippinos to do the job? Problem solved.

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Nick - 15-Nov-13 11:45

I also worked for an agency for l6 years. It was nothing but a pain in the rear end. I could write a book as you all can as well. I decided to venture out on my own and its much better. You pick and choose your own clients, deal with the client and family only and make more money doing it. I thought Home Care would improve over the years, but it hasn't. It's only gone backwards. The agencies are only out for the almightly dollar, while we carers do it for the love of the clients, but you cannot make a living working for an agency. If you figure it out, you would make more money working at a hamburger joint.

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fed up - 14-Nov-13 18:04

I'm from Canada and work as a Personal Support Worker for a well known agency. Our visits are never less than an hour in length, and we are paid mileage. If all our clients are in the city/town then the mileage rate is lower. If they're in the country/outskirts then we are paid much more. We also have what is called 'respite' which is a great gig because you visit for 4+ hrs. for one client. Lots of travel by car, and mostly a.m and p.m visits. Some overnights. The pay is not quite as much as working in a large facility but the stress level is way down. All in all it's good.

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wildcat - 5-Nov-13 22:54

There are plenty of domestic workers in Asia e.g. the Philippines, etc. who desparately want to come to work in the UK for minimum wage. However, the Border Agency wouldn't allow them to come, why? And by the way may I also point out that the UK are taking in thousands of asylum seekers and refugees who do nothing but pop out sprogs and live on benefits.

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Nick - 31-Oct-13 09:50

Reading this has just reinforced the fact that all my efforts in the past year have been well worth it. I have set up a new home care company with the philosophy that if I treat my carers well, my clients will get top quality care. So we are paying £8.50 an hour, reimbursing mileage between clients, paying travel time between clients, free uniform, DBS check paid for and quality training and supervision. Yes we won't be the cheapest but I want to show the domiciliary care sector that its about time these shocking practices are addressed and that with careful planning and management it is entirely possible to run a successful company that gives excellent care without exploiting its employees! I take my hat off to all you Carers that have to put up with this and do so because you care about the people you look after. I also totally understand why people stop doing care work as its not financially viable. Lets hope the message catches on!!!

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EliteChoiceHomeCare Sussex - 30-Oct-13 22:29

The news last night was talking about fifteen minuite calls being hopefully banned. thats great but how about the rest of it. I work for a company that im guessing people have had bad experiences with. when my mum tells people who i work for they say.. i would not work for them. i am hoping for a miracle... i hope somewhere will soon take me on elsewear. i start work at 6.30. Im a walker. they cross over all my lunch calls. there constantly ringing me on my days off making me feel guilty as my back to back partner is off every other week sick or going away. I get spoken to like rubbish by the office staff. they dont even know if people are home that have been taken to hospital so you have to walk and check. they dont pay travel. ive rung up three times about my tunic and asked for a new one. they simply keep forgetring so im working in a grubby oversized top. they change your rota every other day so your constantly printing stuff out. on call did not pick up last night or ring me back. not getting paid travel time means im out the house 10 hours and get paid for six. all things in this department need looking at. the staff will keep leaving as who wants to do a job like this and earn 1.60 every 15 minuites.

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sickofit - 8-Oct-13 07:16

There are too many outfits around exploiting people. Personally I'd rather be poor and destitute than work for scum for 3-4 quid an hour, which is what some jobs work out at.

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Gabbladictum - 19-Sep-13 23:51

Fuming!!!!! Last week i was made to walk 2 and a half miles to a cleaning job. i was cleaning from top to bottom of this house to then get a taxi home as it was too far. i made six quid for that effort. i phoned the office to explain it was to far and as a walker i.could not do ot. today the office put it on tomos rota after my breakfasy calls. they gave me ten mins to walk ot!!!!! I rung up explaining it was too far but if they cud pay for a taxi id do it. they instead snapped at me and told me to forget it. i am currently in tears and looking for another job.... bastards!!!!!

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angrygirl - 19-Sep-13 16:24

Maybee these comments should be sent to the prime minister!!

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heidi - 18-Sep-13 09:34

Sorry. Posted too quickly. I meant I feel a lot of anger on behalf of care workers and those they care for.

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Petra - 17-Sep-13 19:58

Reading all the experiences of care workers here and also knowing a single mum who tried to earn a little money doing this part time, I feel a lot of anger the care workers and the people they look after.

The low pay and the other ways in which care workers are exploited just illustrates how little successive governments care about the elderly, ill and disabled, and those who look after them

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Petra - 17-Sep-13 19:57

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