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By Debbie le Quesne

Care sector zero hours contracts: The price of an economic uplift?

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Listen to the TV headlines, catch the soundbites and film clips of a smiling Chancellor and we’re telling the world and its wife we are in economic recovery.

True, the figures are encouraging – but at what cost? While the mega-rich seem to be getting richer, those who are are lesser mortals are not yet really enjoying the same mirth as Mr Osborne.

You would like to think – though to do so would be naive – that economic recovery would be reflected some in the care sector. But data from the Office for National Statistics suggests something different.

Some 583,000 people are employed on a zero-hours contract, with the largest numbers in health and social care, hospitality and administration.

The growth of zero hour contracts for me spells out a very clear message that our economic stability is a best fragile. Few want to invest in more moral contracts that dictate holiday entitlement and set hours.

I can understand it too. Do you know that more people are employed on zero-hours contracts in the public and third sectors than in the private sector?

Economic restraint, the cuts and uncertain futures drive this kind of employer purchase.

According to the figures more than 300,000 workers in the care sector are employed on zero-hours contracts, including a whopping 60 per cent of domiciliary care workers.

My biggest concern is that if our employees are given inadequate terms and conditions, how will that impact on the care we give?

We have seen scandals aplenty and the 15-minute call debate still rumbles on.

So many carers and care managers feel their contributions to reforming social care are undervalued. Personally, I don’t believe there is a single politician who really knows the true worth of when out industry achieves.

I know too, that many of our West Midland Care Association members desperately want to up the pay and conditions of their staff, but their hands are tied because the one-trick pony cut, cut, cut policy plays out its worst scenarios in the care sector.

Dignity, choice, excellence in care and personalised packages are great goals.

While you celebrate, Mr Osborne, the economic uplift, please spare a thought for those who are helping you achieve it. We spend much out our time in the care business doing risk assessments on care packages that benefit the clients. Perhaps it would be worth considering doing a similar exercise on those private sector providers which are paramount to delivering the government’s Care Bill reforms.

We really are worth it!

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