OPINION: Nobody seems to care about the UK's under-appreciated carers

Do you have the time to be a carer?

It's time the government put an arm around carers and treated them with the respect they deserve, says Rachel Moore - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Low paid, under-valued and invisible to all but those who need them the most.

Care workers are stretched until they snap. Their sense of vocation and responsibility to those who cannot do without them taken for granted because care workers never let anyone down, however let down and demoralised they might feel.

They have every right to feel let down.

As 5,000 foreign lorry drivers are enticed over to the UK with three-month visas on a mission to “save Christmas” – and save face for the government - and another 5,000 farm workers are granted visas to stop winter crops rotting in fields, no such rescue mission is mounted to fill the 100,000 vacancies for staff in the care home sector, for decades reliant on overseas labour,

Brussel sprouts, turkeys and tinsel evidently matter more than decent care for the old, frail and vulnerable behind closed doors. Out of sight and out of mind.

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Votes can’t come from the grave, after all. If a care home can’t fill its rota, or social care is so short staffed home visits are missed, who knows apart from the individuals or families?

But if the UK’s Christmas is lost because there is no one to pick or deliver it, it’s election suicide.

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How a nation views its elderly and cares for them speaks volumes about its priorities and morals.

We watched as Covid raged through care homes as hospitals discharged infected elderly into the care sector. Now, staffing on a shoestring is about to get even worse.

How a country treats those who look after the elderly should be judged the same. Care homes, as reliant, if not more, on an international workforce as agriculture, the heavy truck sector and the NHS is effectively being hung out to dry to limp on chronically understaffed beyond crisis point.

Who really cares about the carers?

Most are paid a paltry £8.50 an hour but are the last people to make a fuss and complain, going about their work with a stoic commitment. They will never let down the people that need them so become victims of their own dedication.

If they are feeling stretched now, breaking point is on the horizon when November comes and homes have to sack any staff members who refuse Covid vaccinations.

Jab or sack is their choice, which the sector warns could see as many as 70,000 – 12per cent of the total care workforce - losing their jobs. Some local authorities could lose more than a tenth of their staff, they warn.

That would be a disaster, especially when many vacancies attract no applications whatsoever.

To rub salt into the wounds, the unvaccinated care sector dismissed can go straight into unfilled NHS vacancies because NHS staff are excused compulsory vaccines.

So, November 11 could see homes on their knees.

Warnings of a winter chronic staff shortage are not new. In the summer, it was mooted that volunteers might have to be drafted in to make ends meet in home and appeals made for retired carers and health staff to undergo fast-track training to bridge the gap left by the double whammy of the loss of EU workers and compulsory vaccines.

To be in this situation, with the government apparently sticking their fingers in their ears in the hope that the sector will sort itself with that care magic wand like it always does, is appalling

Our treatment of carers and the regard in which they are held by those with the power to make a difference is disgraceful.

As they gird themselves for a winter of discontent, there appears to be scant will anywhere to throw the sector any lifeline.

Panic at the pumps

Panic –dictionary definition - a sudden overwhelming fear that produces hysterical or irrational behaviour and that often spread quickly through a group of persons or animals.

It’s a human reaction when told not to panic, to feel uneasy and distrustful at best. When the messenger is someone you wouldn’t trust further than a petrol pump hose will stretch, it’s full on meltdown mode.

The overwhelming depressing lesson of the last 18 months is how out for themselves and disingenuous so many people are.

A sniff that there could be a shortage of anything, and they have to have it – and have it all – whether they need it or not, just to have it.

Loo rolls and pasta 18 months ago, and petrol today, even if it means ambulances, health workers and teachers have to go without.

It’s that steadfast refusal to consider anyone else’s needs that is so depressing, or to view that anyone has a right to something they need and you don’t that is so dispiriting.

The people with three quarters of a tank of diesel that queue for hours to fill up without anywhere they need to be, just to have it are the worst, not giving a damn that there could be a nurse or doctor behind them that might not make their shift that night.

But sure as eggs are eggs, this person would have clapped with gusto on his doorstep for NHS staff through Covid.

And he or she would expect health professionals to save them if they needed it, but it’s first-come first-served when it comes to petrol, however great the need.

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