Coventry carers protest over frozen payments
CARERS who dedicate their lives to helping some of the city’s most vulnerable people in their own family homes are up in arms over their pay.
They are protesting to Coventry City Council about what they say is “care on the cheap for a pittance”.
They say their payments have been frozen while the cost of living soars.
Two carers claim their grievances are shared by more of the city’s 48 carers – who provide care for 74 adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems under the council’s Shared Lives scheme.
Carers say their highly demanding role means providing round-the-clock care, from help with eating, dressing and bathing, to dealing with violent psychotic episodes.
Yet they say council payments of about £18,000 per client a year – to cover board and lodgings, accommodation and heating bills, and the extra costs of care – leaves them with next to nothing in their own pay.
It comes as the council and government are seeking to develop more care placements in family homes – under measures which move away from traditional residential homes to more independent living in communities.
We have withheld the name of one carer to protect the identities of the vulnerable adults she cares for.
She has cared for her three clients in her Ernesford Grange semi-detached home for years.
She receives £52,000 in total, which she says amounts to £4 an hour – minus sleeping at night – which covers her clients’ board and lodgings and care costs.
She and other carers say clients often get up through the night and need care, making it a “24/7” job.
She took the role 22 years ago after a back injury meant she had to give up work as a secretary.
All the carers are self-employed and are contracted to provide the care by the council.
The carer, who has three grown-up children, said: “Social services acknowledge that I’ve got three of the most difficult cases in Coventry, and that such one-on-one care is the best available.
“But I haven’t had a family Christmas for 20 years and I get no break throughout the year, as I can’t get one of them into a fully-booked residential home for respite. Some of those homes get much more for each client.
” We get a pittance. It’s care on the cheap.
“I’m attached to the people I’ve cared for for years. I did enjoy it, but I can’t say I do now. It’s highly demanding work.”
Eileen Nugent provides full-time respite to one man with severe learning difficulties in her Coundon home, receiving nearly £20,000 – slightly more to reflect her clients’ higher care needs.
It goes to his board and lodgings, accommodation costs and extra care costs.
An experienced carer and former NHS nurse who also lives with her husband, she said: “Under his care plan provided by the council he needs help with his cleaning and personal hygiene, help to eat food, and even help to get out of bed.
“I enjoy helping these people. I was born to be a carer.
“But they treat us like dirt. They are getting us on the cheap.”
Council officer Andrew Reece, in charge of Shared Lives, said the carers’ payments are in line with other councils, and the amount the city council pays for each client in a “standard level” private residential care home.
He denied any client in Shared Lives required round-the-clock care, and said: “This type of scheme is absolutely part of the future of care provision.
“In my view, the majority of carers are reasonably happy with their arrangements.
“In many cases, it is not the only income coming into the family home.”
He said the council had subsidised respite to give carers a holiday, by placing clients in their own residential care homes.
Labour councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for community services in charge of Shared Lives, said: “We recognise carers have a very challenging and professional job to do. We want to make sure service users’ needs are catered for in the most suitable way possible.
“It’s about treating them with dignity and respect and I feel confident this scheme meets the needs of those individuals.”
The council is planning alterations to meet national Quality Care Commission changes, which will see clients get about £100-a-week more in their own pocket, in housing benefit and other payments.
A £22.30 personal allowance is currently meant to help subsidise a clients’ personal costs such as clothes and toiletries, and Disability Living Allowance meets some of the cost of their care needs.
But the two carers complain they will get nothing more from the changes to help their plight.