Heroes who also need some TLC

With so much negativity around these days concerning care companies, it’s all too easy to forget who the real heroes are – and that’s the carers themselves.

I used to work for Independent Living Services (ILS) in Galashiels.

The carers are wonderful people. I’ve never met a bad one. They do a remarkable job in spite of the terrible working conditions they have to endure and poor support they receive.

I’ve not written this letter to have a go at ILS, but to highlight problems that are widespread in this industry.

We do a job most people would baulk at. It’s grossly underpaid, we have to use our own cars (we need to upgrade to business insurance as well) and are responsible for our own servicing, road tax, etc. We need to use our own mobile phones, at our own expense, and we are only paid for actual contact time with our clients.

This means we can be out in the community for 13 or 14 hours per day – yet lucky if we’re paid for eight of those. We’re either rushed off our feet, or sitting around in our cars or at home for hours at a time – earning nothing.

We are required to be “flexible”. That is care company language which means you do whatever they tell you, whenever they tell you, without question. Your home and social life becomes a thing of the past.

Furthermore, we have to administer medication. This is an area where mistakes can easily be made by carers who are so tired they can barely think straight.

I’ve witnessed carers being sent to an unfamiliar town, expected to visit clients they have never met before, and have no idea where they are going or what to expect when they get there.

This tends to only happen when someone is off sick and appointments have to be covered, but it’s a nightmare for anyone who has to do it.

We go well beyond the call of duty for our clients, and all the extra time we have to spend with them is unpaid. We have to deal with it all – and that can mean the blood, urine, vomit and faeces.

The devotion, commitment and sacrifice made by so many wonderful carers never comes to the fore – only bad examples make headline news.

Private care companies are run for profit. That means frontline carers are paid a pittance and treated badly.

Until there is drastic change, then these firms will always struggle to find suitable staff willing to commit for the long term.

So, the next time you read about scandal or problems within the care industry, spare a thought for the brave men and women who will be out in all weathers providing an essential service for a pittance of a wage. These people deserve to be admired and respected, not criticised for the failings of their bosses who are chiefly interested in maximising profits.

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