Zero-hours contracts in care should be the exception rather than rule - North Norfolk MP and care minister Norman Lamb

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

Care workers must be treated decently if the country is to have a compassionate system, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb will say today.

The Liberal Democrat care minister will set out a motion – which will be voted on by activists – calling for improved employment practices including making zero-hours contracts the exception rather than the rule,

He will also tell delegates at his party conference in Glasgow that the treatment of a North Norfolk woman constituent who was showered by a man she had never met was an assault on her dignity.

Business secretary Vince Cable announced yesterday that legislation could be introduced before the end of this Parliament to tackle the exploitation of workers on zero-hours contracts.

He floated proposals for new protections as part of a package of measures designed to make the workplace and wages 'fairer for everyone'.

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In July it emerged that 307,000 people are employed on zero-hours contracts in the social care sector alone.

Mr Lamb will say: 'It is not enough simply to stop exploitation. The way we care for people is a profound reflection on our society – and the profession of caring deserves a status commensurate with that.'

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The Liberal Democrat motion will demand proper training, career progression, and rewards for people who work in care.

During the conference hall debate he will tell the story of one of his constituents.

He will say: 'She (the North Norfolk constituent) told me there is constant turnover of staff doing personal care, with men she had never seen before showering her. This sort of treatment is an assault on your dignity.

'She had one care worker who had had one day of training; one worker who gave her wrong pills; and one night, no-one turned up at all. She was left in her chair overnight. This is unacceptable care.'

On Sunday the health minister called for cross-party talks to discuss the long-term future of the NHS, saying the financial pressures on the NHS meant a 'national conversation' was needed about how it could be sustainable over the coming years.

He told a fringe event at the Lib Dem party conference that the government was already committed to £20bn of efficiency savings over the course of this parliament, but a similar amount would be needed beyond 2015.

He said he 'bears the scars' of cross-party talks before the last election on social care which ended in bitter division when the Tories launched their 'death tax' campaign against Labour.

But he insisted fresh talks involving Labour and the Tories would be needed to examine the challenges now facing the health service.

Mr Lamb will also tell the conference that money could be used much more effectively by integrating health and care, mental health and physical health, primary care and secondary care.

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