“The care sector is vital for our society and our economy,” general secretary Dave Prentis declared as he opened UNISON’s first social care seminar in London last week.
“Our government and our country must show they care about those who care for our loved ones,” he added.
Care is one of the largest industries in the UK – and it faces a mass of problems affecting both carers themselves and those who need care.
The seminar, at UNISON Centre in London, followed a decision by the union’s national delegate conference and examined a range of issues affecting both home care and care homes.
Care workers, union activists and organisers met in groups to hear about and discuss four areas of concern:
- making sure employers comply with the minimum wage;
- UNISON learning in social care;
- organising in private care providers;
- the impact of Brexit on social care workers.
The seminar heard that stress levels are high among care workers, with 25% reporting that they struggle with finances – but they love the work they do.
After discussing the issues, those taking part in the seminar agreed a number of priorities for UNISON:
- mobilising the workforce;
- raising awareness of careworkers’ rights and responsibilities;
- tackling a culture that sees care as a problem, or simply as a market transaction;
- making sure care workers’ voices are heard;
- protecting whistleblowers;
- making sure care workers are being paid at least minimum wage, including travelling time and sleepovers;
- working with local authorities and the Care Quality Commission to improve commissioning.
UNISON vice president Gordon McKay said the day featured “horrific true stories of one-minute care visits, intentional employer double booking of care visits for the same time and staff being illegally paid under £5 an hour,” but also “the UNISON success stories of 10% pay increases, secure employment and first class care delivery fought for and won.
“Those who rely on home care deserve better and the staff who care for our vulnerable need a trade union to be their voice.”