5 minutes with Andy Rutherford
UNISON organiser in north Wales
Andy, you’re down at the Senedd on Wednesday 28 February, why?
We’ll be launching UNISON’s Residential Care Charter and re-launching our Ethical Care Charter. We’ve chosen to do that in the heart of Welsh government for maximum impact.
Why has UNISON written a Charter?
We are campaigning for higher standards of care across the residential care sector. Workers delivering vital care in residential services deserve to be supported, respected and valued and skilled. We spoke to our members working in the sector discussing all the issues and barriers to providing decent care and our Residential Care Charter is a result of this work.
What are the problems residential carers suffer?
Care work is the very least valued occupation in our society, with the majority being on the National Minimum Wage. Training provided is poor or piecemeal in many places. There aren’t enough resources to provide care properly and in a lot of cases, the client to carer ratio is way too high, causing stress, and frustration in addition to compromising health and safety.
How is UNISON campaigning for change?
We’re lobbying decision makers at every level, promoting our care charters ensuring the message gets out to all public sector bodies that are connected to, or are providing social care.
Over the year, we will be going out to our members, councillors, commissioners and the wider community highlighting the need for change to improve standards and to call for adequate funding throughout the whole spectrum of social care.
I know UNISON has an Ethical Care Charter, what’s the difference?
UNISON has had the Ethical Care Charter for some time and we have seen some success with employers willing to adopt it. We recognise so much more needs to be done to ensuring the improvement of standards for all. Whatever the setting, many carers suffer low wages and a lack of training.
However, for those working in social domiciliary care, they have the added pressures of non factoring in of travel time, call clipping and 15 minute visits, along with zero hours contracts and lack of stability. Staff are not given the time to care.
What’s the message you want people to take away from Wednesday’s launch?
We are all aware of the pressures being put on the NHS over the last year or more. The social care sector is expected to meet this demand at a time of cuts and shrinking council budgets and the impacts of austerity. There is so much pressure put on workers to deliver a service with fewer resources and social care is in crisis.
In Wales specifically, there is a recognition service delivery and the working conditions for those providing care need to urgently improve. Councils, commissioners and partnership boards need to appreciate if care workers are treated fairly, feel supported, secure and confident, standards will improve and dignity in care will prevail for all.
Where can I find out more?
Keep an eye out for updates on UNISON’s websites, regionally and nationally. Read the residential care charter yourself and talk to your branch and UNISON organisers about how you can campaign.
Good luck for the launch!