Care workers: Britain’s unsung heroes

Having worked overtime until the early hours of the morning, driving from house to house on snow-covered roads, Jessica Gentry, a care worker from Bury, decided to share her experience on Facebook in an open letter to the Prime Minister.

Within the letter she talks about the man with a suspected stroke and who she waited with for an ambulance. She talks also of the 15 lots of medicine she administered, the various patients with dementia that she reassured, and her frustration with having to do all this during twenty-minute visits while being paid the minimum wage.

Her post has since been shared almost 180,000 times with thousands more commenting with messages of support in the lack of recognition carers do for their invaluable work.

A fresh perspective

So much of the news coverage surrounding the social care crisis revolves around the experiences and views of politicians, medical professionals, and council leaders. While their opinions are important, there is a distinct danger that the public become tired of hearing the same people say the same thing, time after time.

That is perhaps why Jessica Gentry’s Facebook status grabbed the public’s attention in such a manner. This was a first-hand experience of an ordinary care worker going to extraordinary lengths for her patients; doing so under immense time pressure and with limited financial compensation. Unfortunately, stories like Jessica’s tend to go untold, drowned out instead by the government’s continued assurances that everything is under control.

The huge demonstration of support she received is indicative of the public’s feelings on the matter, and acted as a reminder to many of the immense value in the work that care workers do. The status ends with a plea to Theresa May, calling on her to improve care workers’ pay and training. When you consider that care workers spend every day doing their upmost to ensure our elderly relatives are warm, fed, safe and have company – even for a short time –, it is difficult to disagree.

There is already a huge problem with recruitment, with almost a quarter of all care workers leaving their role each year, and it is predicted the mismatch between supply and demand for carers could be 1 million workers by 2025. The government should therefore be doing everything it can to recruit new care workers, and that includes improving their pay and training.

Yet herein lies the devastating reality of the current crisis. Current funding levels mean the social care system is already at breaking point. Councils are scheduling 15-minute visits to cut costs and many care providers are pulling out of contracts because they are no longer financially viable.  We all agree that carers deserve better pay; it is about the time the government found the money to make it happen.

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