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  1. ITV Report

Warning 'cut-price' care system on the brink of 'collapse'

Warning 'cut-price' care system on the brink of collapse Credit: Daniel Karmann/DPA/Press Association Images

Britain is facing a "crisis" in the care system and workers have warned of a possible "collapse", a union has warned.

A dossier drawn up by Unison revealed illegally low pay rates, widespread use of zero-hours contracts, poor training standards and "damaging consequences" of privatisation.

We have a 'cut-price' care system where state-funded care is rationed only to those with the highest need.

Meanwhile, the rate councils pay for it is often too low to provide anything more than the minimum wage - if that - to care workers. A care workforce that isn't being supported ultimately results in older people not being properly cared for.

– Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age

Homecare workers also questioned the system of 15-minute visits to the sick and elderly, which is often even less if they are delayed by traffic jams. The union has written to the new Care Minister, Alistair Burt, calling for a meeting to discuss issues ranging from the pay and conditions of care workers to the safety of people who rely on the service. The report, 15 Minutes Of Shame, details first-hand experiences of care workers in England and Wales, including one who visits a man in his mid-nineties.

I have been given 15 minutes to go to into his house, wake him up, assist him to the bathroom, give him a shower, help him dry and get dressed and then make his breakfast and make sure he takes his medication. My organiser has been told this takes around 30 to 45 minutes. Her reply was that other workers can do it in this time

Most of the workers quoted in the report say they do not have enough time to offer proper care, and many reveal they are not paid for the time they spend travelling.

Only someone who thought that getting the frail and sick up in the morning was an easy task could have invented the 15-minute call.

Warning 'cut-price' care system on the brink of collapse Credit: Uwe Anspach/DPA/Press Association Images

The crisis in our homecare system is a source of national shame.

Too many homecare workers and too many people who rely on this vital service are routinely being robbed of their dignity. This report captures so much of what is wrong and inhumane about our homecare system.

The new Government must listen to the voices of the people at the heart of this crisis. We are urging the new minister to work with us as we continue our vital campaign to save our care system.

– Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary

The report, released at Unison's annual conference in Glasgow, quotes a care worker saying the service is at a crossroads, and was "collapsing all around us".

A survey of more than 1,000 homecare workers by Unison showed that a quarter who administer medication received no training. Most cared for people with dementia, but more than one in four had received no training in how to deal with the illness.

The truth is we have a strong, independently regulated care sector which delivers good and often excellent care to the vast majority of people who use it, via a highly committed and skilled workforce.

Care visits should always meet the needs of patients and should never be inappropriately short - it's wrong to allow less than half an hour to help people eat, get dressed or get out of bed.

We have also been absolutely clear that it is unacceptable if companies do not pay their staff the national minimum wage. Where this is found to be happening, such companies will be taken to court and fined.

– Department of Health spokesperson