|The News Line: Editorial
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Drive the privateers out of the care system
IN ENGLAND last year 928 adult social care workers a day quit their jobs, according to an analysis of data from the charity ‘Skills for Care’ carried out by the BBC.
338,520 adult social care workers out of a workforce of 1.3 million left their jobs, with 60% leaving this sector of the care system completely. These workers are quite literally being forced out of this demanding work caring for the elderly and infirm through a regime of cost-cutting that has seen full-time care workers earning just £14,800 a year, and one-in-four on a zero-hours contract.
According to the Unison union, low pay is endemic throughout all sections of the care system from the home visit sector to residential care. The vast majority of workers making home visits to the elderly are employed by the private sector, and 90% are paid below the national minimum wage.
The private employers are able to get away with this by not paying for travelling time between visits or, in the case when an overnight stay is required, not paying for ‘sleeping time’.
Those on zero-hours contracts receive no holiday or sick pay. With low-paid staff being forced to rush around from visit to visit, and limited to ridiculous times for each visit – sometimes as low as ten minutes – it is scarcely surprising that these care workers are burnt out and leaving in droves to escape this intolerable situation they face daily.
For those employed in the residential home sector the situation is as dire. The spokesman for the private owners of homes last month warned that these small businesses, which account for the majority in the UK, are facing bankruptcy due to the increase in the minimum wage and other costs, and the drastic cut in the money that local authorities are prepared to pay towards caring for residents.
These cuts have been dictated by the massive cuts to local government imposed by the Tories under their austerity regime. A record number of private care homes have closed, and more than 400 have been declared insolvent.
The crisis is not confined to these small businesses. Four Seasons Healthcare, the country’s biggest care home group, last year reported a £264 million loss. On top of the massive cuts in council spending Four Seasons, owned by a private equity company Terra Firma, is drowning in debt for which it is paying over £52.1 million in interest.
Private equity companies moved into the care homes business seeing it as a vast profit making machine paid out of public money. Now these profits are disappearing fast they will simply close down and move on to yet another ‘investment opportunity’ potentially leaving the 18,500 elderly people in its homes high and dry.
The elderly who are too poor to pay the astronomical sums demanded for fully-funded private care, or those whose existing money or property have already been swallowed up leaving them broke and relying on funding from cash strapped local councils, will be turned out onto the streets – this is the future capitalism holds for those it regards as just worthless drains on the economy.
As for care workers, if they are not prepared to work for less than slave wages and endure intolerable working conditions well, that is too bad – the Tories and the bosses they represent are demanding levels of exploitation unseen since Victorian Britain, and if even this is not enough to guarantee profit then just close down.
There is only one answer that guarantees a life free from misery for the elderly. If the privateers can’t afford to run a proper care system then they must be kicked out and the system taken over and nationalised without compensation.
Above all, the unions must be forced to act in defence of their members and the generation of older workers by organising to bring down this Tory government through a general strike and bringing in a workers government that will carry out a full programme of nationalisation under the control and management of the working class and will ensure the best possible care for everyone, regardless of age.
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