Why are care workers on the minimum wage?

Wayne Rooney, £1,785 per hour

Wayne Rooney, £1,785 per hour

With the announcement last week that Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is about to earn £300,000 per week – that’s £1,785 per hour – my mind turned yet again to the low pay of care workers in the UK. Most of the ones I work with earn the minimum wage of £6.31 per hour or slightly more.

Professional footballer = £1,785 per hour.

Care worker = £6.31 per hour.

Am I missing something or is this complete, total and utter madness? Would care workers be so badly paid if most of them were men? Who cares for the carers, where is the public outrage? What kind of society are we living in that apparently accepts this situation?

I have worked with more than one Healthcare Assistant who has loved the job but has had to move on because of the bad pay – in one case to go and earn more on the checkouts in Tesco. By contrast, a small percentage of places pay their staff around £8 or more, as do care agencies who provide temporary staff such as myself. £8 per hour is closer to the so-called “living wage”, a strange concept, the obvious implication being that those on the lower “minimum wage” are not actually living! As you would expect, the staff are usually happier and far more settled when paid more, and the residents/patients receive a better standard of care.

Care worker, £6.31 per hour

Care worker, £6.31 per hour

Care work is considered unskilled, the implication being that anyone could do it. Is this actually the case? In my experience, work in nursing homes, NHS hospitals and the community can be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually demanding in the extreme. There is often poo, vomit and blood to wipe up. At the risk of stating the obvious, sick and dying grandmothers and grandfathers are not always easy people. Almost superhuman patience is sometimes required.

The chances are that, one day, you will be one of the vulnerable and elderly being cared for by exhausted and underpaid carers.

I have heard that the situation is nothing like as bad in Scandinavia and many other countries. No remotely civilized and decent society would quietly allow such a situation to continue. Gavin Kelly, (chief executive of Resolution Foundation, an independent thinktank aiming to improve living standards for low to middle income families in the United Kingdom) has drawn attention to the fact that, due to not being paid for the time spent travelling between home visits, many carers are being paid even less than the minimum wage.

Professional footballer = £1,785 per hour.

Care worker = £6.31 per hour.

Fracking bonkers

Fracking

Green MP Caroline Lucas,  arrested at Balcombe

Green MP Caroline Lucas, arrested at Balcombe

Last summer I made several visits to the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe in Sussex, just a few train stops up from Brighton, where I live. I had only vaguely heard of fracking before, but had smelt a rat as soon as my girlfriend told me a few things about what was going on. Visits to the site were an education, in more ways than one. Apart from anything else, the heavy policing of the protests was extraordinary and unnecessary, since estimated to have cost the taxpayer £3-£4 million. One would have thought that this alone might have made David Cameron’s government question the viability of fracking, particularly in politically conservative areas such as Balcombe, but apparently not.

Protests at Barton Moss, 2014

Protests at Barton Moss, 2014

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is extremely dodgy. Irreversible water, soil and air pollution are part of the deal. And burning yet more fossil fuels in a time of climate change targets? Even discounting some of the environmental risks, there are a large number of other reasons for the UK public to be extremely worried. Fracking is a big industrial enterprise that will significantly disrupt communities and countryside if it takes off in the UK. There is obviously something very wrong if Cameron has to resort to bribing local communities and householders. He goes further and claims that opponents of fracking are “irrational”, quite an extraordinary statement to anyone who has taken the trouble to look into the pros and cons in detail. The government insists that there are “clear, robust controls in place” but a recent newspaper article uncovered the fact that the Environment Agency has precisely six full-time staff monitoring fracking. Those who have worked in the industry say that fracking can not be regulated and will therefore never be safe.

FrackedUpCameronEnergy expert Paul Stevens has carefully outlined all the issues (including the myth that energy prices will come down) and explained why fracking has conquered America, and why it can’t happen in Britain. Bribing local councils and the public is not the answer, David Cameron. It looks to me like you are in danger of committing political suicide.

A large number of videos are available including The Fracking Facade, Fracking Hell: The Untold Story and GAS – WAR.

Websites at Frack Free Sussex and Frack Off.

Action on Sugar – about time!

Action on SugarIt has been a welcome surprise to see the explosion of UK media coverage for the Action on Sugar group over the last few weeks. Great stuff, although some of us would say it’s a few decades late. As with so much else, corporate interests and big business have been allowed to get away with far too much for far too long. Comparisons to tobacco or even cocaine may seem far-fetched but some would go further and say that sugar is even more addictive (particularly when combined with fat, as is often the case) and a far greater widespread problem. There is hidden added sugar in anything from tomato sauce to “healthy” fruit drinks and muesli and er… just about everything. The stuff is everywhere, relentlessly pushed on an often unaware public.

Stewie's first soda

Stewie’s first soda

Immediately of course, out come the pro-sugar lobbyists to re-assure us that it really isn’t that bad at all. Barbara Gallani of the Food and Drink Federation commented: “Sugars… consumed as part of a varied and balanced diet are not a cause of obesity”. Oh, that’s okay then, we’d better ignore all the evidence that shows otherwise. I wonder if, just possibly, perhaps, the massive profits and the demands of shareholders in the food industry have been put before the public’s health for a long, long time? Just possibly. Wisely, the Action on Sugar group is calling for a gradual reduction by the food industry, similar to the success of reducing added salt in recent years.

Go against the endless marketing of addictive crap by these multimillion pound industries – eat healthier alternatives at least some of the time, and start to re-claim your health and even your life. Just an idea.