Tory austerity has cut care services to the bone. Private companies have partially filled the gap. But these firms are only interested in profits. Care workers, the elderly, and the disabled, meanwhile, are faced with a living nightmare.
The contracting out of all services hits the public purse hard. But what of the so-called benefits? Having worked on the frontline of social care for several years, I would like to share one particular example about the ‘success’ of such a policy.
Many people think that a care worker’s job consists of chatting with old people over a cup of tea. They say to me: “It must be very satisfying work.” If only they knew! In reality, care work is a real nightmare.
When I was employed as a community care worker, I witnessed many harrowing scenarios. I remember the elderly woman who was housebound, simply because she did not have a wheelchair. She was forced to move around her flat using a wheeled commode over a period of several months, despite repeated calls to social services. All care workers have similar stories – and worse – to tell.
The one that really sticks in my mind, however, is the case of a bed-bound dementia sufferer who was booked in for a 45-minute visit (they are nearly all 45 minutes). I let myself into the flat to the weak groans of “help me, please… help me”. I entered her bedroom to find this terrified lady lying naked in a bed sodden with urine and covered with faeces. Her entire little body was freezing cold and soaking wet.
It turned out that the private company were “too short staffed” to send a carer out to her for her nightly visit, so the poor woman had been left hungry, thirsty, naked and alone, unable to move at all, lying in her own piss and shit for the entire night.
In 45 minutes, I had to change and clean her, dress her, scrub down and make up her bed – all without any support (bed-bound clients are supposed to be attended by two carers). There were no disposable cloths available to wash her with, so I had to use any towel or piece of fabric I could find and wash her with these instead.
As I did all this, I scanned the room and checked everywhere for pull-up pads, but there were none available. Eventually, knowing I was already running past the scheduled 45 minutes – and having thirteen more clients to visit that day – I resorted to making her a makeshift pad out of toilet paper placed inside a pair of knickers.
All the time I was constantly looking at the clock while trying to reassure her as she cried and pleaded: “You will come back? You will come back please, miss? You are kind miss; please… don’t leave me, I will die!!”
I called the care company to say this client needed to be visited again as a matter of urgency. The response I got was a robotic “We’ll see what we can do. You need to move on now to your next client.”
I will never forget what I saw that day, nor the cries and wails as I left: “Please come back! Please…”
But I had to go and attend to an elderly gentleman who needed a male carer, and who was so acutely embarrassed about a woman providing him with personal care that he refused. Again, I called the agency. Their response: “Tell him it’s you or nobody.” I checked his supplies and someone had left baby oil, not soothing lotion, to apply to his bed sores.
All the carers I spoke to – those who had worked previously for the council when services were directly run by them – said the same: “It’s like a warzone out there. And we don’t earn enough and can’t keep track of our work and don’t get any breaks at all under zero-hours contracts.”
The Tories have created a social care crisis. Labour will
?Introduce free personal care for over 65s
?Invest in social care
?Cap care costs
?Support care workers pic.twitter.com/ku1ARBa7fi
— The Labour Party (@UKLabour) December 8, 2019
We pay our taxes to provide these services – services that the Tories have tendered out to private companies, placing care at the mercy of market forces.
What is being done with them? Boris and Javid bang on about investing money into social care. All very nice, but the money is not going into the services; it isn’t helping or supporting the people it is designed to. No, it’s going straight into the pockets of the CEOs and shareholders of these companies!
The Tories make these swooping financial gestures, only to appease their fat-cat donors and help make them richer. It is, frankly, sickening. And our taxes are paying for this. Meanwhile, our elderly, our young, our disabled, our homeless and us are paying a very, very heavy cost.
Under the Conservatives, the Red Cross – yes, the Red Cross – has declared a state of emergency in our social care system.
Vote Labour on 12 December for the redistribution of our money, so that instead of it lining the pockets of the fat cats, it can be used to help all of us – each and every one: from the cradle to the grave.