When I went to Parliament and spoke up for care workers

UNISON member and care worker Nicole Stanfield Caile went to Parliament recently to put the case for care workers

Nicole Stanfield Caile writes:

In June, myself and other care workers were given the opportunity, through UNISON, to meet at Parliament with Barbara Keeley, shadow cabinet minister for social care and mental health.

I was invited because I had taken part in the development of the residential care charter in 2016. Most of the care workers present at the meeting were from areas around London or in the north. I was proud to represent my corner of the UK, the south west.

The meeting began with a warm welcome from Ms. Keeley and her staff, who thanked us for our hard work in care and for attending.

Ms. Keeley began by talking about the NHS’s 70th birthday but how people didn’t seem to realise that social care is also celebrating its 70th. She talked about what the Labour government has pledged to do to help social care and policies that they want to develop for the future.

Nicole (second from right) with the other care workers and Barbara Keely (second from left).

Ms. Keeley pointed out that since 2010, £7 billion has been taken out of social care budgets. She said that Labour have pledged £8 billion to go back, including £1 billion this year which has been earmarked to help workers in the care sector to realise a real living wage, ending 15 minute care visits, and ending zero hours contracts.

Labour has been working with UNISON about pay for care workers and the ethical care charter. Ms. Keeley also said Labour has been looking at recruitment and retention, training and development and how care is commissioned. She said that she was committed to making care a career people wanted to be in and stay in.

Then it was our turn. We told Ms. Keeley about our jobs, and about the challenges we and our colleagues are currently facing.

Many topics and stories arose, but the major themes circled around staffing levels, pay, zero hours contracts, sickness, and training.

Towards the end of the discussion, we all spoke about what changes care workers would most like to see. Our list included:

  • Better staffing levels of “real” carers (trained carers out on the floor face-to-face with service users)
  • Ending the culture of fear to speak out/whistleblow
  • Care companies putting service users first, not earnings
  • More power to the CQC to punish care companies who consistently provide a bad service
  • Giving care workers a greater voice and more power to fight for a better service with their unions
  • More rights and better deals for care workers on the floor.

Overall, it was a great day and a very productive meeting. Ms. Keeley and her staff were easy to talk to and were very interested in what we had to say, and genuinely concerned about our various grievances.

I’m grateful for UNISON for giving me the opportunity to speak to Ms. Keeley and to make my voice heard and it’ll be interesting to see what Labour can do to improve social care for workers and service users alike.

Find out more about UNISON’s save care now campaign.