LAST week an investigation revealed that despite their long hours and hard work, hundreds of Lancashire care workers are paid under the real living wage.
In this special report we look at the crisis facing the care sector, with part two focusing on a day in the life of Colne-based carer Carol Thompson as she records one of her 24-hour double shifts in a diary.
Carol Thompson is one of hundreds of Lancashire home carers, and several thousands more across the UK, to earn less than the real living wage, defined by the Living Wage Foundation as £9.50 or £10.85 in London.
Earning just £8.91 per hour, she works often double shifts going from waking up at 6am to finishing at 8am the following morning.
Ms Thompson’s case is indicative of the conditions faced by hundreds of her colleagues as they care for vulnerable adults, people with disabilities and elderly people.
She said: “I care for three adults with learning disabilities and I’m responsible for them in all ways.
“It’s OK for us to have all these responsibilities, but they’re not recognising it in the pay.”
Working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which collated the nationwide figures, Ms Thompson has produced a diary of a typical 24-hour double shift that illustrates the challenges faced by carers across the country.
A typical 24-hour double shift
I wake up, get ready and pack up all my meals and drinks for my 24-hour shift. When we go in on duty we have to take all our meals and drinks, along with our nightwear and toothbrush. In the morning, I have to organise what I’m going to be eating that day, so a lot of the time it’s an easy meal.
For breakfast I have a slice of toast. I have a busy morning ahead. Then I leave for work.
As soon as I arrive I have to clock in via a tablet for my shift starting at 8am. The staff that should be finishing at 8am stay on to do a handover with me: we all do it, each day, in our own time.
I do a cash check, then check the communication book for any messages and the diary to see the jobs for today. I check emails on the tablet. Then I make sure all medication is correct.
I give all three their medication, then help C to shower, shave, brush his teeth and get dressed. B will be going to a day club so I help them do a Covid test. I help B and C with their breakfasts, put C’s washing on, sort B out with money and lunch, and report the test result. Then we get in the car to take B to the day club. C cannot be left alone, so he has to come too. It’s non-stop in the morning.
I ensure B is safely in the club, then drive back to the house with C. A is now up so I make cups of tea for them both. I sort the washing and do the ironing, then I make a couple of phone calls: to the council to ask for a broken window to be repaired and to the pharmacy to stock up on some medication. I document all this in the communication book: you have to write down everything.
I prepare lunch for A and C, who choose what I make. Then I give them their medication before grabbing a snack myself. I help A to empty and load the dishwasher. They all have jobs around the house, to promote independence.
A asks to go shopping so I get A and C in the car. Afterwards, I take them both to a cafe for a coffee. On the way home we stop off at the bank. A loves going into the bank, so we try to do it in person.
When we get back, I make a record of the cash taken out from the bank – everything has to be accounted for. Then it’s time to set off again, with C, to pick up B. I record in the diary any activities or notable incidents from B’s day and make all three a brew before preparing dinner, which is shepherd’s pie. Each week, staff make a meal plan, which users agree on. While it’s cooking I go upstairs to make my bed.
I serve up food for all three. Medication is administered while cooking my dinner (a “ding meal”), which I’m not always able to sit down and enjoy. Once I’ve eaten, I clear up the kitchen and help B load the dishwasher. Then it’s time for daily cleaning duties. We’ve got two kitchens and three bathrooms, and we have to wipe down all the worktops, hobs, floors, bath, sinks, toilets and showers.
I go upstairs, where we have a laptop to input daily diaries. We are encouraged to note any “butterfly moments” – something service users might have done or achieved that day. I help A with his shower and then put his washing on. B also wants a shower, so I assist her with hair washing. When they’re settled, all three choose a snack: it might be toast, crumpets, a scone. Then I make them a hot chocolate.
Nighttime medication is administered. A goes to bed, while B and C stay up watching telly. I ensure all washing up has been dried: I don’t want to leave it for staff the next day. I take C to bed and help him with brushing his teeth. B and I turn everything off and go upstairs to bed. (Usually B goes up at 11, but not always.) I log off my shift and log onto the sleep shift, which is 11pm-8am.
I’m woken by B going to the toilet. This happens every night: it’s part of the job. I listen out to hear that she has gone back to bed; the bedroom is right next to the staff room. It takes me a while to get back to sleep.
I’m woken again at 6am by A, who always gets up early – or during the night – to have some cereal. You can’t help but hear the doors clanging.
My “sleep shift” doesn’t finish for another 45 minutes but I set my alarm for now so I can get up, get dressed, strip the bed and be ready for the morning staff when they arrive.
At 8am my shift finishes. I stay on for an extra 20 minutes doing a handover.
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