Charities: have you literally NO idea the hours that carers work?

OK, today I am – literally- incandescent. I could fuel a decent sized city with the power of my rage.

I have just been filling in a survey from a charity that represents carers. It wishes to establish the state of play in 2014.  And I was astonished when I came across the following question:Image

Er?

All work over 50 hours is lumped together?

This charity should know better than anyone else that many carers are quite literally working – or on call –every single hour in the week. And that adds up to 168 hours.

WHICH IS WELL OVER THREE TIMES AS MUCH AS 50 HOURS A WEEK.

Why is this charity not asking us for the total number of hours worked?

Don’t they want to know how many carers are really working an unsustainable workload?

Are they, perhaps,  staffed by people who have never been a 24/7 family carer and have no idea whatsoever of how unrelenting our lives are?  Is 50+ hours a huge workload to them?  Are they, maybe,  unaware of how many carers are working a truly unbelievable, health-shattering, inappropriate, deathdefying week?

Now, I count as ‘hours caring’ every hour that needs to be covered by someone else if I were knocked down by a bus – which in my case – and in the case of many many other carers, is every hour in every day in every week. Either directly caring or ‘on call.’

And ‘on call’ is no figleaf. At 3am I may well be lifting, carrying, resuscitating, making decisions of life and death. And have been doing so this entire millennium.

I am totally offended that my 168 hours a week should be  bracketed as 50+  by the organisation that purports to represent me  and my difficulties to government. This unsustainable level of work has deeply damaged my health and will shorten my life between 7 and 10 years.

If like me, you are caring at this level AND trying to earn at the same time you may literally be working  more hours in the week than there are. I reckon I work well over 200 hours every week, dropping what I do to deal with a crisis and then having MsF lying on a sofa by me while I carry on.  Yes, it  is no wonder I will die young. Probably while this charity is putting together yet another strategy paper.

Can I be the only one of the UK’s 1.4m fulltime carers in this position? Sadly not.

We are living in a country in which the population are sincerely concerned about  Minimum Wage, European Working Time Directive etc. Where the media makes a fuss about people having to work longer before they retire, or being ‘unpaid interns’.But that  concern stops dead  before it hits the cohort of family carers who are 1 in 10 of the population!

Yet at a recent agitation meeting where a daycare facility was closing, I was heart-wrenched by the piping anguish of a 94 year old woman. “If this closes, how on earth will I be able to care for my daughter?”

She had been caring for 74 years!

We family carers  don’t work 50+ hour weeks. We work lifetimes, and we need realistic support.

Surely any and every charity that represents us carers should be raising awareness of how much worse things are for us than for the generality of the population and actually getting out there and trying to make an actual difference?

I fear I will be accused of being unkind, unfair and even – blow me – ungrateful, but ponder this. If those that represent us have really lobbied effectively over the last decades,  how come the UK family carer is still working  these unsustainable hours unpaid round the clock with no hope of anything but a diminishing state handout, no occupational pension for the work they put in, and  every likelihood of an early death?

To all charities and organisations, I say: If you genuinely want to represent carers, you need to know what our real lives are like. And you need to be as angry about our situation as we are!

So far 227 carers who work 24/7 are signed up to the Carers VIrtual Strike. If you had to pay agency rates to replace just these few people for a year it would cost the state THIRTY MILLION POUNDS. Just saying.

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