Below, Michael Chewter puts the case for a Trade Union to represent home carers. A veteran socialist and long standing Labour Party member he has been attempting to get a debate going about the plight of those who have chosen (or had no real alternative) to become the main carer for their loved ones. Michael points out that many carers feel isolated, undervalued and without a voice. He calls for trade union representation for these workers, for that is what they are, although the government and society as a whole rarely treat them as such, paying them what amounts to a pittance of a Benefit for doing what is often a twenty-four hour job.
Michael has attempted through the TUC to find a union that is willing to recruit these workers but without success. The TUC show little interest as these workers are not in ‘paid work’, which is in itself a Catch 22 situation, for without a powerful voice like a trade union speaking on their behalf they are unlikely to gain the respect that they truly deserve. Of course from the Prime Minister down, politicians are forever singing the praises of carers; and so they might as they save the national exchequer billions of pounds.
For example, If one takes into account that it costs approximately £421.40 a week for residential care in a NHS dementia unit, rising to £650 for nursing dementia sufferers in a Residential care home and £500 per week plus to keep a disabled person or a sick and infirm pensioner in a care home, one gets an idea of the savings the Exchequer makes by placing the entire burden on the shoulders of this volunteer army of carers who receive a miserly sum under the Disability Care Allowance. The web site Carers Information estimates the savings for the Exchequer as £87 billion a year.*
Without a trade union or something very similarity Home Carers are left to the ever increasing Charity sector to make their case to the media, Government and local authorities. Which is something most Carers believe to be totally unacceptable and more to the point inadequate. Working people learnt long ago that we would have to create a political party of are own instead of allowing our so called betters in the Liberal Party to speak on our behalf in the political arena.
Home Carers who are at the sharp end of caring for the disabled and frail, should be able speak for themselves by being members of a Trade Union/independent organization, as they are the only people who can truly speak out on what it is like; and the needs and problems that arise when looking after another human being at home 24/7.
Carers are workers too- towards a trade union for carers.
By Michael Chewter
Up and down the land carers do a job of work. They care day in and day out for sick and disabled family members and others. They are a very varied bunch and their situations vary too. What they have in common is that their demanding and frequently skilled labour is not regarded as work.It is somehow regarded as normal for people to sacrifice their earning opportunities or their hard earned retirement in exchange for the pittance known as Carers’ Allowance. Not all even get that.They are charity cases and their cause is ostensibly promoted by charities who are part of a government promoted and funded nexus of management which extends well beyond carers to all the marginalised and excluded. If carers were not there the work they do would have to be undertaken by the public sector, at great expense.
Many carers want to speak for themselves, with an independent voice. For example, see Carer Watch.They also need trade union representation, in the view of some of us carers. There are already some employed carers who are trade union members, but the vast majority are not because they are classed as claimants and not employees.We need trade union representation too.
Michael Chewter is one of a group of carers who have founded Carer Watch http://www.carerwatch.com an independent campaigning group run by carers for carers.