Salford’s Mayor and one of the city’s MPs joined a socially-distanced demonstration outside Beechfield Lodge care home in Salford calling for better protection of care workers.
The demonstration by care workers and Unison union representatives was supported by Salford MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and Mayor of Salford Paul Dennett. Its aim was to put pressure onto Salford care providers to guarantee protection for workers, residents and the wider community from Covid-19.
Many care providers in Salford are still refusing to support care workers who need to self-isolate or shield due to the coronavirus. This is despite the local NHS Trust and Salford Council working together to create “The Salford Offer”, a financial support package created specifically so that care providers can maintain payment for workers who find themselves in such positions.
Several of the care companies that are not implementing the offer are some of the largest in the country, with HC-One, Comfort Call and Anchor Hanover being urged to sign up.
Due to the lack of financial support from the care providers, there is concern that people will still attend work while suffering from the virus as they simply cannot afford to be off work without payment.
Connor McGurran from Unison spoke about the demonstration and the mistreatment of the workers.
MP for Salford and Eccles, Rebecca Long-Bailey took to Twitter to show solidarity for the demonstrating workers and demand better for them.
Today I stood with @salford_mayor and @SalfordUnison calling on local care providers to take up the ‘Salford offer’ that ensures care workers can get full pay when unable to work due to Covid-19. It costs nothing to providers but supports our care workers on the front line pic.twitter.com/xg3iIFG1iY
— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) August 12, 2020
Many care workers have spoken out about this maltreatment. Two such workers are Laura and Angela, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity.
Laura worked in one of the care homes worst affected by Covid-19, the home lost 20 of its 60 residents to the awful virus. Laura worked extra shifts every week throughout this period as both staff and residents were afflicted. Laura took time off when displaying symptoms and was signed off work as a result of stress and exhaustion leading to negative impacts on her mental health. She was not paid either time by her employer for this time off.
She said: “It was heartbreaking. I’ve worked in this home for two-and-a-half years and you build up relationships with the residents. We’re all doing our best to provide care but it’s so hard watching the residents go through this, especially when their families couldn’t visit them.”
“It is tough to get by on SSP (statutory sick pay) or less. I ended up relying on my boyfriend and would have really struggled financially if I’d have been on my own.
“It just feels wrong that I have gone through so much trouble to get sick pay over the last few months when HC-One wouldn’t have had to pay a penny to give us all full sick pay while we were off.”
Laura said she felt let down by her employer and left in a situation where she could not trust them. She has subsequently left her job at the home.
Angela is a care worker at Comfort Call in Salford. Her daughter has been diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently categorised as extremely vulnerable under the government’s Covid guidance. Because of this, Angela was forced to take time off work in order to protect her vulnerable daughter’s health. Angela provided evidence of her daughter’s health condition to Comfort Call but has only received SSP from her employer. She has lost out on thousands of pounds and has struggled to make ends meet.
Salford City Unison branch secretary Steve North sated: “Care workers throughout our city were delighted when their determined campaigning resulted in the comprehensive package of support being introduced as ‘The Salford Offer’. No more would they have to choose between health and hardship, between protecting their service users and providing for their families.
“And yet despite the fact that it would cost them nothing to protect their own employees, many of the largest care providers in Salford have simply refused to implement the offer. This is not just an insult to the care workers who have put their own lives at risk during this pandemic; it also puts every resident of Salford at risk by potentially increasing the rate of coronavirus transmission in our city.
“This is an example of a local authority and the NHS trying to do all they can to protect care workers and service users and yet the biggest obstacle to this is the care companies themselves. If care companies refuse to adhere to the standards set by those who pay for them, I would strongly recommend that our political representatives bring our care services back in-house, for the benefit of local people rather than care company directors.”
Unison, the UK’s biggest union with more than 1.3 million members in both public and private sectors, has launched a petition addressed to HC-One, Anchor Homes, CIC, Comfort Call, Ecclesholme, Langdon Community and Beenstock Home.