UNISON Cymru/Wales is asking for meetings with every Welsh council to talk about better funding for the care they commission from non-profit organisations – a more that would lift carers out of poverty.
The union wrote to all the councils yesterday, International Women’s Day, warning that thousands of women across the country “are suffering the effects of in-work poverty, despite their dedication in caring for older people”.
Extreme financial constraints in the non-profit care sector have seen carers’ supplements for sleep-ins at service users’ homes slashed, along with holiday pay, bank holiday pay rates and sick pay.
Typically, care workers earn the minimum wage of £7.20 an hour and many have told UNISON they feel exploited and would be financially better off working on the tills at a supermarket.
Yet the work they undertake is invaluable.
They care for some the most vulnerable members of our society, including checking on their welfare, helping them with medication or preparing their meals.
Many women opt to work in the care sector because it offers flexible working that can fit around their own caring responsibilities at home.
UNISON organiser Lynne Hackett (pictured) points that, if councils directly employed care workers, “they would be more fairly paid”.
Where care has been outsourced, she called on councils to provide enough funds “to ensure quality care for service users and dignity for the workforce.
“We know the pressures councils are under because of savage UK Conservative government cuts,” said Ms Hackett, ªbut the answer can’t be to punish those delivering care.”
Some councils have not responded to the union and she accused them of being “ in a state of denial about the care sector”.
But she warned: “As we approach the local elections, this will not be viewed sympathetically by the female carers living and working in their communities.”
UNISON is urging all Welsh councils to adopt the union’s Ethical Care Charter, which would ensure dignity of care for patients and fair and decent employment standards for care staff.