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The real impact of Conservative cuts - One carers story

Simon Sapper

Simon Sapper

23 January 2013

 "Around 1 in 15 of the CWU's young members will be a carer. All too often the reality of this role is under-reported or misunderstood.  But it affects literally millions of people in the UK. National Officer Simon Sapper has been in correspondence with former CWU NEC member Dave Warren, himself a carer, to get a first hand view of the challenges - and how things could be better."

In the last ten years, the number of carers in the UK has increased by 11%.  That means the  6%  of 18  to  34  years olds  who were identified as "carers"  by the 2001 census will  have increased  to  over 6.5%,  or  close to  1 in 15  amongst  people  who  are  carers,  but  a  sample conducted by the NHS  in 2009/10  found  1 in 6 carers  were aged 16 to  34.

So  what  happens  about social  services,  the support  for those being  cared for, and the support  for carers themselves   matters  directly  to  our  young members  as   they - you -  find yourselves with an  increased   chance of  being the  primary   care  for (often but certainly not exclusively) older  family  members.

In the debate on changes to high-level change to the benefits system earlier this year, David Miliband memorably described the proposals as "rancid".  And we all see the  unfairness and brutality  of   the worse-off in  society  bearing the  brunt  of  a public spending crisis arguably caused  by the wealthiest.

But in practical terms what does the world look like from a carer's perspective?  Many  people  reading this  will know  from their own direct experience,  but  cwuyouth  asked  former CWU NEC  member  Dave Warren   to  share his experiences  as  a full time carer.  If you are not angry now, expect to be by the end of his story.

Dave says:

"I am now entering my fourth year as a carer and it is a bit like groundhog day.The 'system' was obviously set up as it is many years ago to produce big profits for private care companies with the councils almost totally dependent on these bodies who simply don't deliver.
Since August we have had an increased care package because D [the person Dave cares for] was admitted to hospital with stomach pains which it turned out were the result of her heart condition.
This care package like all the previous ones we have had fails regularly because the home care firm who are due to deliver it fail by getting to us very late or on occasions don't turn up at all.
They are due here four times a day now so we spend a lot of our waking hours waiting and phoning the company to find out what is going on.
I have started to do some work with Unison HQ on this because it is clear that the reason for the failures is that the companies simply give the workers schedules that can't be done in the times they are given.I have raised it directly with the council as well and even made a complaint but they haven't done anything to correct the problems.
There latest proposal was that we try nursing care which again proved difficult to arrange because its a private company that has to provide the place.The initial offer was to try it for a week which has turned out to be this week.
Sadly it hasn't gone to well D hasn't been given anything like the level of care that is acceptable and the place which is owned by BUPA is being run like the home care i.e. maximise the profits minimise the care given.
So we now face a real problem prior to our meeting with the social worker on 3rd January of what to do next.The choice appears to be between a home care or nursing home solution, neither of which works.I am wracking my brains to see if there is anything else that we can try which I haven't tried yet. 

Anyway I will battle on as I have for the past few years largely coping alone. Fortunately, I am generally healthy but I don't know what  would happen if I wasn't.

In Dave's view, the solution to the social care crisis is similar to the one the the union has talked about in the postal industry where Dave Ward has talked of avoiding a race to the bottom.
He says : "That 'race' finished a while ago in the care sector so all the private companies who bid for council contracts engage their workers on very poor pay and working conditions. In my view the Unison campaign and the wider one around a living wage are crucial in getting improvements.
Again like our industries in postal and telecoms care workers need fair workloads.All the ones that have come to us have the same problems i.e. insufficient or no travelling time, no time for meal breaks and additional calls added during the working day to cover sickness of colleagues.
This leads to a situation where care packages are not delivered which in turn leads to unpaid carers like me being very tied to the person we look after or worse the person being left on their own for long periods.When the care workers do arrive they are often in a hurry to get done and finished because of the pressure they are under.Councils could tackle some of this by beefing up the contracts they have with private care companies and imposing financial penalties for failure.
My local  authority has contracts with eighteen care companies and the Head of Adult social care stated at a recent scrutiny committee that I attended that she is not happy with any of them! Unfortunately there appears to be no plan for dealing with this."
Dave also describes  how he has inevitably  had to  fill in the  gaps in  in social care, leading to  feelings of being  isolated and  have  skills  that are not and can not be used.
He says: "When the new home care package was introduced in August of last year it was sold to me as a solution that would mean I could stand back a bit because home care workers would come in four times a day.The other thing we were asked to try was the nursing home. Neither has worked out very well so we are left more or less as we have been for the past three years or so mainly managing by ourselves.

Any plans I might have had for rejoining the outside world even on a part time basis have floundered.I just keep seeing more evidence of our broken 'care' system which I highlight as much as I can in my self-appointed role as a campaigner for carers' rights."

Even though  this is an issue which  impacts  upon  young  (and indeed all)  CWU  members, Carers do not have a particularly high  profile in  our union.  Perhaps that is something we need to think about changing.

If you want to find  out  more  about  these issues,  or you are a carer  looking  for  support, the following  links  may  be  helpful:





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