Saturday, August 30, 2008

Who cares for the carers?

Mrs Blogs Blogs writes about carers, here:

"there is a clash of values here. We laud voluntary action and family care but we live in a society based on money exchange. Everything we need to live must be paid for either directly from our own private money or collectively through the taxes we pay. Each hour you work you get paid for and then you are able to buy the stuff, like food and shelter, to live. But care provided in the family is done for free, or for love whichever term you prefer. So while you are working for free you forego purchasing power to live. The more you work for free the less stuff you can buy to live. Granted, life is not lived by stuff alone.

While we must be wary of where we push the distorting (if we value such notions as 'love', 'care', 'voluntary' etc) influence of the cash nexus how are those who do live a life which requires time to be given up to providing free care out of love, to live and pay their bills? Its a long-standing dilemma and one which is not sufficiently addressed, at least not in these terms."

I agree with all of this. And the same goes for people who do paid work caring for other people. Here's the average rate of pay for pre-school staff - the highest wages are just over £6/hour in London for an assistant, less than £9/hour for a Leader. This discussion on mumsnet gives some other examples:

"i get paid a glorious £6.70 an hour to look after some of the countries most challenging young people. and for that money i endure beatings, being spat on, called everyname under the sun, having various household objects thrown at my head. good job i love my work because its certainly not the money that keeps me going. and the company wonder why their staff turnover is so high? at the end of the day the local authority doesnt actually care about the standard of the people who care for these children, just as long as there are always mugs like me who are willing to do it"

"same goes for care workers for the elderly - I used to get paid the glorious rate of £5.50phr (before the minimum wage went up to £5.52 or whatever it is now) to look about elderly people with dementia working night shifts!!"

"that really is appalling. That we pay poeple to care for our most vulnerable a mere pittance.
We want people to look after our precious children on a wage they cant live on without being shattered by needing 2 jobs or expect them to treat elderly people with dignity when they are not treated with dignity themselves.

Its disgusting.

The whole of society is underpinned by a workforce being paid shite but if they weren't there it would all fall apart"

It's an obvious point, but not even the most rugged individualist can claim that they are solely responsible for their own successes in life - everyone needs to be cared for at some points in their life, and advances in healthcare mean that more people will need more and higher standards of care in the future.

This is a part of the Welfare State which needs to be modernised, because at the moment it is based on the assumptions that caring is something which women will do and won't have to be paid more than a pittance to do. Now and in the future, there is no choice but to spend more money on caring for others, one way or another. At the moment, paid and unpaid carers alike struggle to make ends meet, while families try to cope with huge and rising care bills, whether for their children, or for elderly or disabled relatives.

The most effective and fairest way to help carers and those they care for is to shift the financial costs to those who are best able to meet them. Unpaid carers need far greater financial support, the right to have short breaks when they need to, and more opportunities to combine appropriate work with caring. And we need thousands and thousands more people to work as carers, and for caring jobs to pay enough for people to be able to live with dignity on.


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