Who cares

An anonymous residential care worker says she felt forced out of her job

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I first spoke to this magazine a few weeks ago, when the peak of the coronavirus outbreak was still on the horizon.

As a residential care worker working in a home for adults with brain injuries, I was deeply concerned. Shortages of PPE were already an issue, and I was worried about the lack of guidance from the private care provider I worked for about how to deal with worst case scenarios, and how to protect myself and the residents at the home from the virus.

Since then, I’ve left my job. I’m filled with guilt and sadness that I’ve been forced to leave a job I love, but I really felt like I had no choice.

The lack of support from my employers was deeply troubling. We received no guidance from management from the beginning of the crisis – I have not seen a manager since the beginning of the lockdown on 23 March.

Managers were not coming in because they were scared of getting the virus themselves and they said they’d been told to work from home, but at a time like this you expect a manager to be there to support a team. The only thing we received was a leaflet through the door with the standard NHS guidelines about washing our hands.

Management also issued instructions to only do personal care on a one-to-one basis for social distancing reasons, but that is just impossible. The type of personal care we do has to be two-to-one because of how back-breaking it is. It involves using hoists and lifting and rolling residents, and it is very strenuous. There’s no way you can do it safely on your own. A few weeks prior to the Covid-19 outbreak I’d been off work unpaid for a week because I’d pulled my back out of place having to do personal care.

The support the country has shown for NHS staff during the pandemic has been absolutely amazing, but I do feel people need to know how unsupported care workers are. With the NHS there have been food deliveries, free transport to get to work, even pay increments for staff when they are working in high risk areas, but care workers have not been given any of this.

We’re on £8.72 an hour. We don’t have cleaners. We have to do residents’ shopping ourselves as well as go out and find PPE, fill up the cupboards, administer medication, deal with family members, communicate with social workers – we are really at the forefront and we are totally forgotten about.

The privatisation of the care industry is a scandal. Private companies are charging residents and local authorities double the price that staff are being paid per hour, and everybody suffers because of it.

We are treated like robots. Nobody from the company has phoned up and asked how we’re doing, and it’s just been so overwhelming for my own mental health.

I was constantly worrying about not having proper guidance about how to support the people I was caring for at this time. Some of the residents were starting to self-harm because of the stress of not being allowed out, and on top of this I was dealing with the fact I was at risk because of not having the correct PPE.

My mental health has been affected massively. It’s been triggering all my triggers. You feel so unsupported but you’re so passionate about your job that you’re torn between feeling so guilty, but also feeling so unwell yourself because of the stress. I feel like I’ve had to leave because I haven’t been able to give 100 per cent because of how overworked we are and how much pressure we are under.

I wasn’t sleeping. I was constantly worried about going to work, and always dreading bad news. I feel very sad to have left, and I feel incredibly guilty knowing I’m not there working means agency staff would have to come in, but it just got too much

As told to Saskia Murphy

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