A care worker quit her 20-year career for a cleaning job in the same residential home because it pays more – and gives her more time with elderly residents.
The 45-year-old, who wishes to remain anonymous, now earns £8.08 an hour, up 13p an hour from the £7.95 she got as a skilled carer.
As an overworked carer in a home with high staff turnover, she had limited interaction with residents and was unable to give them the help they needed.
She said: “It makes me angry. I felt I needed to get out but by working in the home I feel I can still make a difference – and more of a difference.”
She spoke out as public service union Unison highlights a social care system “haemorrhaging” care workers at a rate of 31% a year.
Cleaners earn 20p an hour more than carers on average – £8.16 rather than £7.96. Both are far below the living wage Unison wants: £10.55 in London and £9 outside.
The former carer said: “Cleaning pays more, yet it is not so demanding or skilful. I see others leaving every two-three months, mainly to shop work.”
She added: “I didn’t have enough time as a carer to support residents with dignity and compassion.
“It was usually the toileting. You would have to say, ‘I’m sorry, can you wait a moment’, and there would be an accident. It was happening daily.
“They would have no dignity. They would be sitting in a wet pad and pants. Quite a few would be very upset. It was upsetting for me.
“As a carer I had maybe 15 or 20 minutes to get a resident up, and I’d have to explain each thing I was going to do – it’s communication, but not conversation. It’s not very human.
“Now I go into their rooms and chat, I build up nice relationships.
“One lady, I knock on her door and she’ll say, ‘Thank the good lord you’re back.’ She has no family. You see a difference, they are happier.”
Of 3,000 care workers surveyed by Unison, half were considering leaving the system, 70% driven by low pay, with over half adding they did not have enough time to deliver care.
One in five admitted being too rushed to take people to the toilet and 28% do not have enough time to bathe or shower those they are caring for.
Two in five said they had no time to comfort a resident in distress.
It was a picture painfully reflected in BBC Sunday night drama Care, starring Sheridan Smith and Alison Steadman, showing one care resident forced to urinate in a corridor.
Squeezed by Tory cuts, local authorities reduced spending per adult on social care by around 9% between 2009-10 and 2017-18, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
The Local Government Association estimates social care faces a funding gap of £4.3billion by 2020 and says overall councils will have faced a 77% decrease in funding between 2015/16 and next year.
According to the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Government has cut £7billion from social care budgets in England since 2010.
Matthew Egan, of Unison, said the squeeze means eligibility criteria has risen, resulting in those in care having more demanding needs.
There are 110,000 vacant care worker posts in England.
Mr Egan said: “Care workers feel looked down upon. They feel they are doing the job a district nurse would have done 10 years ago.”
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