"Wonderful carers - despite poor working conditions!"

About: Direct Health (Sheffield) Sheffield City Council

(as a service user),

Philip, Leonard, Isuru, Tony and Mark the temp from last week are all amazing carers. All of them have the natural manner and obvious qualities one would look for in care staff. More than this though - they have developed the skills that go hand in hand with a role that is all too often rated as ‘unskilled’. On the contrary their people skills, their thoughtfulness are so much more in advance of their working conditions. The procedures they have to undertake, working under pressure to meet the changing needs of their clients, the first aid skills and communication skills.

But - more than this though – it is the dedication and sheer hard work of the army of carers employed by agencies throughout Sheffield and the rest of the UK– it is quite breathtaking when one wheels back and thinks about it. Trudging through sleet and snow in the winter, in the rain climbing up hill and down dale - quite literally here in Sheffield – working through the heat in summer - I sometimes wonder why they don't get the plaudits they deserve!

I certainly don’t understand why they don’t get a salary that recognises their dedication and the contracts that should provide them and their families with more security.

I want to see agencies really putting into practice what they mean when they talk about person centred care, because unless they give front line carers the chance to co-produce services with service users then the divide between service users and agencies will continue.

By offering zero-hour contracts the profession is kept at a level to compare with the hospitality industry. There must be a better solution than likening the care of disabled people to the pouring of drinks and waiting tables for the casual worker. There is nothing casual about caring and until the contribution disabled people make to society is recognised so the same will remain. If carers are not looked after - then neither are the service users to whom you provide the service.

There doesn’t seem any chance of realistic central Government funding to fix the care industry because the money already afforded local authorities is nowhere near enough to support full cost recovery of individual clients whose assessed needs are paid for by the state.

Until that happens lets get carers and disabled people to work together. Let them talk to coordinators and set realistic time slots for service users. Make sure carers have enough time between calls. Stop calling carers when they are in the middle of a client call and delivering key personalised and intimate care. Agencies have to respect carers as well as their customers. Make time for these co-production meetings by contracting to local voluntary groups and user led organisations like SCIL to help co-ordinate the sessions. But stop making the mistake of saying we don’t have time to do it – if service users, care staff, co-ordinators and social work staff can’t be happy in the services they produce then what is the point?

Agencies must pay their carers for the time between calls and look at establishing better remuneration anyway along with more developed methods of training.


PS Co-production is not about posting the range of positive statements drawn from the annual feedback questionnaire distributed to agency service users.

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