Following the publication of her initial findings, Teresa has written to the Government, and local Councils in her constituency, to call on them to offer greater support to care workers, and to ask how this can be achieved.
After publishing her initial findings at the beginning of February 2014, Teresa thoroughly reviewed the responses she received to her care worker survey to determine the best course of action to take. She has now written to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable MP, as well as to London Borough of Bexley and the Royal Borough of Greenwich, to state her concerns and to outline her suggestions for improvement.
In her letters, Teresa wrote:
“It was clear from the responses I received that many care workers find their work very rewarding, and feel they are making a valuable contribution. However, it was also clear that many also felt over-worked, under-valued, and under-paid. Their concerns can be summarised as follows:
• Very low wages not commensurate with the hours worked and the effort expended;
• Lack of job security and uncertain employment contracts (some claimed to be employed on zero-hour contracts);
• Unavoidable expenses incurred when travelling between clients, which are not covered by employers;
• Lack of proper training courses, and no opportunities for personal development and career progression;
• Lack of a proper professional support network offering practical advice, assistance, and pastoral care;
• Long working hours due to staff shortages and financial cut-backs – some remarked that owing to privatisation across the sector they felt that the needs of clients were being negated by monetary considerations;
• The poor social status of care workers, and the widespread lack of understanding of the importance of their work and their role.
The importance of care workers and home care services should not be underestimated. Without them many vulnerable and elderly people would have no form of support and assistance. It is my belief that the following changes would lead to improvement across the sector:
• Care workers should be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and their salaries subject to regular reviews;
• They should be given secure employment contracts, either permanent or fixed-term, and they should be guaranteed a minimum number of hours work each week;
• Care workers should either be reimbursed the cost of travelling between clients, or their wages should be amended to take into account the costs they are incurring due to travel;
• Training courses should be offered by employers so that care workers can expand and refine their skills-set – and gain qualifications if they wish to do so – both to help them in their current roles and to improve their future employment prospects;
• Care workers should be encouraged to join a trade union, and a professional network should be established so that care workers can benefit from peer-to-peer support, as well as have access to advice and guidance when they are experiencing difficulties in the work place;
• Guidelines should be established so that care workers are not forced to work an unreasonable number of hours, since this inevitably effects the standard of care provided to clients and impinges on the well-being of care workers;
• The importance of care work should be highlighted, and the profile of care work should be raised so that it is seen as a valuable, legitimate, and respectable career option with prospects.”
Teresa specifically asked the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if the Government is currently looking at working conditions across the care sector, and if there are plans to implement policies to improve conditions for care workers. If not, she asked if this is something the Government will consider doing in the foreseeable future. She asked local councils about their current practices in relation to care workers, and how she can work with them to help conditions improve across the sector.
After posting the letters, Teresa said:
“Whilst it was easy to identify the areas in desperate need of reform, it will be hard to implement this change without positive action on both a national and local level. This is a complex issue requiring not only a review of current working practices and staff management across the sector, but also the recognition of the need to address the social perception of care workers.
What is clear is that working conditions will not improve on a local level for care workers without some form of Government intervention and formal understanding of the problem. I am looking forward to receiving responses from the Government and local Councils, and hope that they demonstrate an understanding of the problem and propose ways for improvements.”