Monday, 14 June 2010

The homecare companies that couldn't care less

UNISON, the UK's leading public sector union, today slammed private homecare companies for exploiting staff and leaving elderly people without the care and support they need.

Private care companies routinely employ staff on zero hours contracts, that often means huge swings in paid hours for staff. By refusing to pay for travel time between visits, many home carers are effectively paid below the minimum wage.

They are not offered even basic training, including how to administer medicines, despite having to give them out as a part of their work.
Some companies book back-to-back calls with no travel time at all. This forces carers to shave minutes off already packed care slots, and means elderly people are short-changed, missing out on vital support.

Out of their low wages, many care workers have to pay for their own transport, mobile phones and uniforms – all essential to do the job.

UNISON wants homecare companies to put the care back into caring, by paying for travel time between clients, boosting training and working conditions for carers. This would have the knock on benefit of raising standards of care for elderly people who rely on the service.

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

"It is a scandal that private homecare companies are boosting profits for themselves, but short-changing elderly people and staff. They are cutting corners by scrimping and saving on what they pay their staff. This has a huge knock on effect on elderly people relying on care to live independent lives in their own homes."


More information (including more on the Scottish example of bad practice, below) in full news release: UNISON UK press release

Bad Practice

Choices - Care at Home employs more than 300 home carers in South Lanarkshire. In February, the company ripped up staff employment contracts, replacing them with zero hours contracts for staff. They pay staff just £5.80 per hour, 5p above the minimum wage and 17p mileage rates.

A carer working for the company, who wanted to remain anonymous, said:

"My company schedules visits so I have to walk for up to thirty minutes. They don't schedule enough time, and I can't cut time off my visits, so it means every day I run over. If you're meant to finish about nine pm, it can be nearly ten o'clock by the time you get home. That makes it really difficult if you have to get home to put the children to bed. I can't complain, because I'll lose the work.

"If you get new clients, you don't know what their needs are until you get there. I think we should be fully briefed before we get to visits, so we know what to expect."

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