MP raises the problem of the systematic exploitation of care workers in Parliament

A recent debate in the House of Commons on zero-hour contracts focused on the widespread mistreatment of homecare workers.

Conservative MP for South Norfolk Richard Bacon introduced the debate and said: I believe that in the domiciliary care sector, there is still what amounts to systematic exploitation. I hope that the Government will look at the matter carefully.”

He went on to say “careworkers are often forced to rush from care appointment to care appointment without being given adequate time at each appointment, or time to travel between appointments, for which they are not paid.”

In his contribution he directly quoted the experiences of some homecare workers. 

“After I spoke with Unison, it sent me the testimonies of several careworkers, some of them anonymised because the workers are simply too frightened to be open. One such home careworker wrote:

“I am on zero contract hours…If I kick off, I have the fear that they can turn around and take me off my calls…I work six days a week, which accounts to me putting in forty five hours plus…But I am lucky if I get paid for 28 of those hours”.

Mr. Bacon then called on the Business Minister Nick Boles to undertake to work closely with the new Minister for Community and Social Care to ensure that firms providing care services are taking the required steps to stamp out bad practice and look after their employees.

He also asked the Minister “to work with HM Revenue and Customs, encouraging it to pursue cases where there are clear breaches of employment law—for example, the payment of the national minimum wage to care workers who are not paid for travelling between appointments—so that unscrupulous employers have a justified fear of ending up in the courts?”

UNISON will continue to work to ensure that more MPs raise the plight of care workers and the people who rely on care services. 


Success! Leeds City Council signs Ethical Care Charter

Leeds City Council Leader Keith Wakefield today signed UNISON's Ethical Care Charter. He was joined by UNISON Assistant General Secretary Cliff Williams. 

The formal charter calls for companies that provide care services to minimise zero hours contracts, pay at least the average national minimum wage and move quickly to paying the living wage of £7.85 an hour.

It also signs the Council and UNISON up to ensuring proper training for all carers. Only fully trained staff can provide the levels of care which people need and deserve.

Cliff Williams said: “The issue of how society cares for its growing number of vulnerable people is at the top of the political agenda.

“Our members working for Care UK in Doncaster highlighted the scandal of wage cuts and inadequate resources and training from private care providers.

“What they fought against so courageously is a huge problem throughout the country and I am delighted that, as the biggest city so far to sign up to UNISON’s charter, Leeds City Council is setting a national example.”

UNISON Regional Organiser Dean Harper said: “Historically care workers have been undervalued and underpaid, and compelled to work under enormous strain to meet the demands placed on them.

“This charter aims to stop and reverse that situation.

“These are dedicated and caring people whose clients depend on them for their quality of life.

“I am delighted the Council has seen how important this charter is, now and into the future, to make the best care available to all, provided by properly trained and rewarded carers.

“They deserve the utmost respect from society as a whole.”


Inadequate homecare training putting elderly and disabled at risk

The safety of elderly and disabled people who rely on homecare is being put at risk because staff are receiving inadequate training, according to a UNISON study.

The survey of more than 1,000 care workers employed by councils and private firms across the UK, found that staff are increasingly being asked to perform intimate procedures that would previously have only been carried out by registered nurses.

Changing catheter bags, peg feeding, stoma care*, administering medication and looking after patients with dementia are just some of the difficult tasks that homecare workers carry out, even though many receive little or no training.

Read the full report.

MP backs UNISON's Ethical Care charter

Bolton South East MP Yasmin Qureshi has given her backing to UNISON'sEthical Care Charter campaign.

Ms Qureshi met stewards from the union's Bolton branch to give her backing to the campaign - and the branch's petition to get Bolton council to sign up to the charter.

"Today I signed ‪@unisontweets Ethical Care Charter. Pls support‪@UNISON_Bolton petition," she Tweeted.

"UNISON's Ethical Care Charter is a series of standards that we want the council to adopt to improve homecare services throughout Bolton," says the branch.

The charter calls for:

  • an end to 15-minute visits for elderly and disabled people who need care in their own homes;
  • our elderly and disabled people to be given the same care worker rather than a series of strangers;
  • homecare workers to receive better training and the living wage and for an end to zero-hours contracts.

"We believe that elderly and disabled people in our community deserve the best possible level of homecare to help them live independently and with dignity," adds the branch.

"In order to make this happen, homecare workers need to be treated fairly and decently so they can do their jobs to the best of their ability."

The union is asking Bolton residents to "add your name and call to ask that Bolton council takes responsibility for ensuring better care for our elderly and disabled people and for better treatment of our homecare workers.

"We are all going to need care at some point in our lifetimes, it is only right that the people who need it and the workers who provide it are treated with dignity and fairness."