UNISON launches ethical care charter


03 March 2016

UNISON launches ethical care charter

UNISON, Save Care Now, Ethical Care Charter, home help, carers

The crisis is so great any ‘extra cash’ will be of little help to deprived areas.

Three quarters (74 per cent) of local authorities in England are still limiting homecare visits for their elderly, ill and disabled residents to just 15 minutes, the union for public service staff UNISON said in a report published recently.

The report – entitled Suffering Alone at Home – is based on an online survey of 1,100 homecare workers and data obtained from a Freedom of Information request (FoI) to the 152 local authorities in England that commission social care visits.

The UNISON survey findings mirror those of the FoI request to local councils.

Three quarters (74 per cent) of homecare workers who responded felt they did not have enough time to provide dignified care for the elderly and disabled people they visited.

Worryingly, says UNISON, 61 per cent said visits of just a quarter of an hour meant they frequently had to rush the care of people who were over 90 years old.

A similar report by UNISON in 2014 showed that the same proportion of councils (74 per cent) were regularly using 15 minute visits.

Given the harsh financial climate in which local authorities are operating, UNISON says it is not surprised that there has been no change in the numbers, and fears the situation will only get worse.

The 2015 survey findings show more than half the homecare workers (57 per cent) have been asked to provide personal care in 15 minutes or less with an elderly person they have never met before.

The limited time allocated means the majority of workers (85 per cent) said they regularly didn’t even have time for a conversation during some homecare visits.

One third (32 per cent) said they have no time to address people’s personal hygiene needs such as washing, and a quarter (24 per cent) have no time to take people to the toilet.

Half (49 per cent) said a quarter of an hour wasn’t long enough to prepare a nutritional meal, and the same proportion said the shortness of the visit meant there was no time to assess any change in the person’s health.

Homecare workers found the limited time they are able to spend with each person distressing because the majority (82 per cent) of the people they saw on their rounds suffered from dementia and more than three quarters (78 per cent) had mobility issues.

More than half (53 per cent) were stroke victims, had mental health issues (51 per cent) and 42 per cent had Parkinson’s disease. Some may have multiple conditions.

Homecare workers also said that more than a third (37 per cent) of the people they saw have hardly ever had visits from friends or relatives, which is why they felt it was important to be able to spend time in each person’s home.

UNISON’s General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said: “It is heartbreaking and distressing that many elderly and disabled people are notbeing cared for in a humane and dignified manner.

“Homecare workers have shared their harrowing stories with a strong sense of sadness, guilt, anger, and ultimately disgust, at a broken homecare system.

“Eye-watering cuts imposed by the government mean councils are still booking the shortest possible visits to care for vulnerable, frail and isolated elderly people.

“Homecare workers are often the only face some people see all day, and they are a lifeline – only they can call for help and ensure that the housebound people they care for are fed, washed and well,” Prentis continued.

“Although the government is going to allow local authorities to raise council tax to fund social care, the crisis is so great that any extra cash will barely touch the sides.

“It will also be of little help to deprived areas – where the need for home care visits is greater.

“With the challenge of an ageing population living longer, care planning and adequate funding for social care should be a government priority and it clearly is not.

“Ministers should stop passing the social care buck to councils, and dig deep to find the cash from Treasury coffers to provide dignified care for the elderly.

“Rushed 15 minute homecare visits should have no place in a modern, caring society.”

Over 500,000 adults in the UK rely on homecare workers to get them out of bed, wash them, brush their teeth, help them take their medication and do much more.

But homecare workers are worried: councils are allowing care providers to cut corners and the elderly and disabled people that need homecare are not getting the support they should.

Thousands of care workers are deeply concerned about the state of the care sector in the UK, but many are afraid to speak out publicly as they risk losing their jobs.

‘Save Care Now’ is a UNISON campaign aiming to raise the voices of homecare workers and improve the homecare sector.

The campaign calls on councils to sign UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter, a set of commitments that together ensure the health, safety, and dignity of the UK’s most vulnerable people.

And the simplest way to make sure your council Saves Care Now is by asking them to sign up to UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter – a set of commitments that councils make which fix minimum standards to protect the dignity and quality of life for vulnerable people and the workers who care for them.

Though councils have faced budget cuts, the charter can be implemented gradually. And as the measures ensure a higher standard of homecare councils will save money because fewer people will need to go into care homes which are much more expensive.

Please email your local council now and let them know you’d like them to sign up to the charter.

The commitments are split into phases to allow for gradual implementation of the charter.

The commitments of the Ethical Care Charter:

Stage 1

The starting point for commissioning of visits will be client need and not minutes or tasks. Workers will have the freedom to provide appropriate care and will be given time to talk to their clients.

The time allocated to visits will match the needs of the clients. In general, 15-minute visits will not be used as they undermine the dignity of the clients.

Homecare workers will be paid for their travel time, their travel costs and other necessary expenses such as mobile phones.

Visits will be scheduled so that homecare workers are not forced to rush their time with clients or leave their clients early to get to the next one on time.

Those homecare workers who are eligible must be paid statutory sick pay.

Stage 2

Clients will be allocated the same homecare worker(s) wherever possible.

Zero hour contracts will not be used in place of permanent contracts.

Providers will have a clear and accountable procedure for following up staff concerns about their clients’ wellbeing.

All homecare workers will be regularly trained to the necessary standard to provide a good service (at no cost to themselves and in work time).

Homecare workers will be given the opportunity to regularly meet co-workers to share best practice and limit their isolation.

Stage 3

All homecare workers will be paid at least the Living Wage (as of November 2013 it is currently £7.85 an hour for the whole of the UK apart from London. For London it is £9.15 an hour. The Living Wage will be calculated again in November 2015 and in each subsequent November).  If Council employed homecare workers paid above this rate are outsourced it should be on the basis that the provider is required, and is funded, to maintain these pay levels throughout the contract.

All homecare workers will be covered by an occupational sick pay scheme to ensure that staff do not feel pressurised to work when they are ill in order to protect the welfare of their vulnerable clients.

When homecare services are well run they can help to ensure that people are able to live with dignity and in comfort.

But when they are delivered poorly they can have a devastating impact on the lives of care recipients and their families.

The over-riding objective behind the Charter is to establish a minimum baseline for the safety, quality and dignity of care by ensuring employment conditions which a) do not routinely short change clients and b) ensure the recruitment and retention of a more stable workforce through more sustainable pay, conditions and training levels.

Simple, really.

To download the charter, click here.

To find your local council’s contact details, click here.