Ethical Care Campaign

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2013 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2013

Conference welcomes the launch of UNISON’s Ethical Care Campaign and the production of the ‘Time to Care’ report, which has provided a platform for often-ignored homecare workers to articulate their frustrations and anger with the UK homecare system. It has shown how a committed but poorly paid and treated workforce is doing its best to maintain high levels of quality care in a system that is in crisis.

Conference believes that the pay and working conditions of the local government care workforce – 80% of whom are outsourced – is a national scandal, made worse by cuts to council budgets. Conference notes that local government care workers are predominantly women and include a high proportion of migrant workers and workers from across equalities groups, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers. ‘Time To Care’ has also shown how poor pay and conditions and lack of training can help contribute towards lower standards of care for people in receipt of homecare services. Conference deplores the attacks on terms and conditions of our members, who are amongst our lowest paid and most disadvantaged local government members. Conference therefore condemns the fact that so many councils are “deliberately under-funding the commissioning of care distorting the market to drive it ever downwards, leaving vulnerable people unsafe and without human dignity and trampling over the rights of workers striving to deliver quality care. Our concerns about our members’ terms and conditions are matched by our concerns about the quality of the care they can provide: it is an issue of human rights.

Earlier this year, the Care Quality Commission reported that in its review of home care including inspection of 250 services, a quarter of homecare services provided to older people in England are failing to meet quality and safety standards.

Conference welcomes the inclusion of a “no zero hours contracts” clause in the Ethical Care Charter and notes with alarm the growing use of such contracts in the care sector. These contracts are a cynical method of control over the workforce enabling contractors to avoid the EU Agency regulations and increase profit whilst reducing investment and risk Carers, primarily women, are forced to accept such terms or face redundancy, but the impact on their family income, their ability to budget and plan effectively and to contribute long term for an adequate pension is severely damaged by such conditions.

The creation of the Ethical Care Charter provides councils that commission homecare services with a framework for improving levels of care and the treatment of homecare workers enabling council’s to redress the imbalance in contractual terms and conditions between predominantly male and female occupations/contracted services. While recognising that homecare is best delivered as an in house council service both for service users and workers alike

Conference notes the very large and growing size of the homecare workforce across the UK which provides UNISON with massive recruitment potential. In England alone, Skills for Care estimate the number of homecare workers to be around 800,000.

Conference therefore welcomes UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, which seeks to establish a minimum baseline for the safety, quality and dignity of homecare by ensuring employment conditions which do not routinely short-change clients and which ensure the recruitment and retention of a more stable workforce through more sustainable pay, conditions and training levels. Conference notes that part and parcel of this campaign is our campaign for a living wage.

Conference congratulates those local government branches that have raised the Charter with their councils and undertaken campaigns for the introduction of a living wage. Conference notes that these campaigns work best when they involve developing alliances with service user organisations, community and equality groups. Conference notes the resource of our self-organised groups who are well placed to assist with community links and recruitment of potential members in the care workforce.

Conference therefore instructs the Service Group Executive, in liaison with the national self-organised groups, to:

1) Prioritise its Ethical Care Campaign with a specific focus on recruitment and adoption of the Ethical Care Charter and continue to promote the Ethical Care Charter to strengthen our bargaining for improved terms and conditions for local government care workers

2) Encourage Regions and branches to commit resources to the campaign and for regions to give support to branches who do not have any homecare staff as members or who have no ‘in-house’ homecare to organise

3) Provide guidance to support local government branch and regional campaigns on the living wage and on recruitment campaigns targeted at care workers

4) Establish links with local service user and community groups to build grass-roots support for the adoption of the Charter

5) Encourage branches to map homecare provision within their council to assist with organising and recruitment in the area

6) Continue to campaign for improved pay and conditions for homecare workers which do not include zero hours contract clauses, alongside the Low Pay Commission, Age UK community organisations, such as Citizens UK and its regional arms, and others on these campaigns

7) Work with Labour Link to encourage the Labour Party and Shadow Ministers to promote a sustainable funding regime for social care, including adequate funding to provide fair pay, conditions and training to the workforce

8) Work with council’s to provide homecare services in house so that there is proper democratic accountability, an organised and trained workforce and no profit being made from care of the elderly and vulnerable at the tax payers’ expense.

9) Work towards the eradication of zero hour contracts