/ Health

It’s time for a revolution in care

With growing concern about the quality of home care, Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, is here to explain why there needs to be a revolution in care services.

Caring is a fact of life. At some point in our lives almost all of us will need care or provide care to an ill, older or disabled loved one.

Without the right support, the costs of caring can be high. Over one million people have been forced to give up their jobs or reduce working hours to care, and then often face financial hardship, poor health and isolation as a result.

According to our research at Carers UK, a third of carers who had cut back on working hours or were forced out of work did so because they couldn’t find suitable care services to help them juggle work and care.

The care services they could find were often too expensive, not appropriate or simply not of a good enough quality to trust. And then there’s the care that’s provided in a rush, like the examples of 15 minute appointments from care workers to help someone get out of bed, washed, dressed and given breakfast.

Families bear brunt of care failings

Which? has highlighted serious failings in care services after asking 40 family members to keep a diary of how their cared-for relatives were treated. These diaries included powerful stories of families being let down by unacceptable standards of care.

Faced with this kind of service, along with care workers being untrained, late and sometimes uncaring – families can end up in a cycle of complaint letters and angry phone calls, or just being unable to use the services they desperately need.

A broken home care system

It’s wrong to lay all the blame for this on care workers, many of whom are doing their best in difficult conditions with little support. Many families get great support from care workers. However, poor services are very often the visible result of a social care system starved of the funding it needs to meet growing demand.

As the government cuts councils’ budgets, social services are being asked to deliver more care services to growing numbers of older and disabled people for less. The sums don’t add up. Quality often suffers, but charges for services are also rising and many families are seeing the support they get cut.

Carers are paying the price in their physical and mental health, family finances and often at the cost of their careers. But it is not just families who feel the effect; employers point to increasing numbers of essential staff forced to leave their jobs at the peak of their skills and experience to care for their ageing parents. This is bad for business and bad for the economy – with Age UK estimating the total cost in lost earnings and tax revenues and additional welfare to be £5.3 billion a year.

Alongside fighting for more investment in social care, we need to rethink what care services more broadly look like. It’s time for a revolution in care services to fit with the reality of busy family and working lives and get that triple win we desperately need – for families, for people needing care, and for the economy.

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK – all opinions expressed here are Heléna’s own, not necessarily those of Which?

Ally Al-Mufti says:
17 September 2012

Fantastic piece. As a care provider I fully support a care revolution.

Red tape needs to be cut for care homes and there must be more investment to provide the best quality homes and staff.

Carer pay needs to increase, it’s become increasingly difficult to find let alone retain the best staff that have a natural caring ability. For the training and legislation they are required to follow they need the salary to make it all worth it.

Technology must be helped to be introduced into homes to protect not just the residents but staff and visitors from false accusations. So easy for angry families now seeking blame to claim to accuse homes and tarnish their reputation with no proof.

Fully support any revolution and anything I can do to help spread the word please contact me.

Reg Veg says:
17 September 2012

I work as a carer for an agency and regularly see care homes who will not pay for so much as a pen for thier staff, expect staff to foot the bill for CRB checks, expect staff to work overtime without pay (it’s just 15 minutes, right? yes, 25 minutes every single shift…) and do everything to penny pinch wherever possible. I do 36+ hours a week and still only have a single tunic – the rest of my uniform I’ve supplied myself.

No mouthcare kits for pallitive patients? “they’re too dangerous as the sponges can come off the end”..
Not allowed to change a continence pad? “oh its all dry it’s only a smear”
So ….what did your residents do today? Got up, sat in the lounge, went to bed.
Of course the photo’s on the wall show the residents doing all sorts of things. Just they do them maybe once a year…

..I’m sorry, but if families really want the best for thier relatives it’s time to leave the caring system altogether and take your people home with you – it’ll be just like they’ve become responsible for them. Novel eh?

Bang the revolution drum all day and all night, but you won’t change a thing until
a) caring establishments cease to be allowed to make profits and
b) become generously funded

Of course that doen’t stop workers like me being kicked in the shin every time there’s a problem.

s thornton says:
24 September 2012

My husband is at home & the carerworkers I have three times a day are great , but the problem here is the same one as the homes. the council put out tenders to do the work,the companies rake in all the profits & the girls who do all the hard work get peanuts .

i have just had my payments put up by an extra £40 pounds which comes to over £168 pounds a week the girls get nothing, why can’.t the councils run the system like a buisness instead of handing over the job to the profiteers

Angela says:
17 September 2012

I would like to remind both the above posters that Carers Uk is an organisation that supports CARERS..those who care, often 24/7 for a relative and who don’t get paid for doing so.
Someone who cares for a living is a CAREWORKER – big difference.

Many of us do agree about the appalling levels of pay that careworkers receive and also agree that this and many other issues need to change.

In reply to the second poster, the comment about taking people home with us and being responsible for them? We do, and we don’t get to go home at the end of a shift. Many look after young people and children and many look after two relatives at the same time as I did myself until recently. Would you do that and be on call constantly without a break for less than £60 per week?

No? Didn’t think so. Now if I saw a careworker willing to do that that really would be “novel” wouldn’t it?

paul mcfadden says:
17 September 2012

Great Wee Piece On Care Revolution Written By The Chief Ex Of Carers Uk… Where Ever It’s Family Care ,, Care/Support Worker,, Care In A Hosptial,, Or Even Care At All .. The So Called Care /Support System That Most Of Us Live And Have To Work With.With So Many Failings It Stinks .. When The Revolution Starts Give Me A Shout..



Thanks for your comments and for making the really important distinction between carers and care workers – Carers UK has written a lot of letters to the media and TV programmes over the years making the same point! You also make the crucial point that carers are often in financial hardship as a result of caring for loved ones.

Carers Allowance, the main benefit for carers, is the lowest benefit of its kind. We estimate carers save the Government around £119bn a year with the care they provide yet they are given so little support that they end up in financial hardship.


Sue Mclaren says:
17 September 2012

Your article highlights some of the problems of carers like myself. At age 57 I had to retire early after having looked after Dad with cancer and then mum who was becoming increasingly forgetful and dependant after Dad died. Due to having an ankle injury and having to drive to her house in so much pain I was in tears and after having to cancel our holiday because my brother couldn’t give me a break I then approached a major Care at Home Agency via our local crisis team. I had reached breaking point. I now have help 3 times a day for 15 minute slots. I have never received a penny for my input due to having a small works pension. The carers supervise medications -quite poorly at times with 7 mistakes being made this year ie wrong days opened in Nomad system. They also ensure property is locked and windows closed on the bedtime visit and I have gone up to find windows unlocked. They sometimes don’t read the care plans properly and don’t supervise inhalers correctly for mum through not reading care plans. Because of memory problems mums is supposed to have regular carers but seeing as the throughput is phenomonal in the past year alone she has had a succession of carers and only 2 regulars remain constant. This I must say is from one of the better organisations. Of course I do all the other input on a daily basis and supervise mums baths, organise meals, keep her company, transport her to hospital and doctors appointments. As I write this although I have bronchitis I have still had to attend her twice today and collect Nomads from local pharmacy. The issue for me is isolation and lack of a life and indeed who really cares for carers? The Council pay half the fees so for £256 pm mum has care which can be haphazard and at times substandard. All of her carers are lovely girls but due to low pay, inefficient travel planning, overload or underload of work duties and lack of effective training and understanding (how can they have time to read care plans when they have to rush off to another job to do a “double”) the standards of care aren’t up to my expectations and I am sure lots of other relatives feel the same. Your survey is only the tip of the iceberg and more needs to be done starting with better pay and conditions for the Careworkers.



Your story chimes with the experiences of many carers that we hear from. Whilst caring for a relative can be hugely rewarding, it can also take a big toll on carers. Carers are more likely to have money worries and to be in ill health. A survey we did for Carers Week a few years ago showed that over three quarters of carers had been pushed to breaking point.

Like S Thornton above you make the key point about pay and conditions for care workers – unless we treat care work as a skilled profession and ensure staff are given adequate time, training and pay, then these kind of stories, sometimes shocking, are going to continue. They have done it in other countries, like France, where work to stimulate new services has not only improved families’ access to care but has really boosted care as a profession.