"The Elderly" & Nursing Homes

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Jacques Roux
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Mar 4 2005 09:48
"The Elderly" & Nursing Homes

Just curious, I have never come across anything vaguely anarchist to do with older people, their lives and nursing homes, etc.

Has anyone else seen anything? Got any links?

Seems to be a pretty easy subject to sweep under the carpet, but its a pretty fucked up issue.

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the button
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Mar 4 2005 10:05

Inspired by the oldest poster thread, right? wink

I agree, it is a pretty fucked up area, & it's a very difficult one to call. On the one hand, those who care for the elderly in residential settings are ultra-low paid workers, with shit conditions & virtually no job security. And of course, those who care for the elderly at home (i.e. family members, who are mostly women) get paid nothing at all, other than "Attendence Allowance" or somesuch -- and that's if they know if they can claim it.

On the other hand, there's the conditions in the care homes. My gran died in a council care home, and it was fucking dreadful. The medical staff took the line that she was "demented," but she was just grieving my grandad, who'd recently died, after 40-odd years of marriage.

I was involved in a campaign to save a local care home a while back (about 10 years ago -- fuck, I'm old!). The approach there was, dignity & self-determination for the residents (who didn't want to be relocated), and pay the workers what they're worth. An effective line appeared to be "The council don't see an old person when they look at one, they see a price on their head. £400 a week (as it then was) from the state for looking after them. They're worth more than that, & so are the people who look after them."

Data on how much care homes get paid for looking after people is readily available (Department of Health), 'cause it's often in the public domain. As are wages paid to care workers and managers (you can also get these from job ads in the local paper), and costings for food (local authority websites), etc. Then you can work out how much money is being made -- always effective.

As for who was involved in the campaign, it was Unison (the careworkers' union), residents' families & the residents themselves. I was involved 'cause I was Branch Secretary of another public sector union at the time & was doing the solidarity thing. So not an anarchist campaign, by any means, but one that anarchists could have got (and indeed, were) involved.

(As you can tell, my boss isn't in today, so it's postings akimbo from the button wink )

WeTheYouth
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Mar 4 2005 10:29

My mom works at a nursing home for nuns, she has seen some shit things. The majority of the labour force in nursing homes is cheap immigrant labour where there skills are somewhat lacking, there are people caring for old people who do not know the first thing about nursing all because the government is leaving our old homes to fend for themselves and the profit monster bosses who own the agencies and homes dont give a shit. At one place where my mom used to work whilst the owners where on a cruise the lift was broke, imagine carrying bed bound old people up and down two flights of stairs everyday?

It is a key institution which is being held up by immigrant labour, and i have to say its being held up poorly as some of the workers know nothing on nursing and the local authorities are not fronting any money to help train the people which are so vital to society.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 4 2005 11:35

It's a classic case of the poor and 'powerless' being forced into positions of conflict. If you are on shit wages, poor conditions, no proper training, staff shortages and there is an institutional culture of treating people as things/problems then it wont take long before apathy takes over and resistance to the work occurs. In this case usually at the expense of the elderly.

Care work has traditionally been seen as 'women's work' and consquestly been undervalued. In the late 80s councils began closing their own care homes as privitasation continued to bite, leading to shortage of available care in the private sector. At the same time care worker training programmes funded by the gov. but privately run mushroomed all over the place, offering minumum training and usually with a low waged job at the end. This still represents a significant sector of gov funded training.

Although introduction of profit plays a part in causing the deteriorating situation, the same culture and conditions exist in most care homes run by charirties where profit is not the purpose of the operation(as a friend of my can testify).

I think situations like these show limits to the 'you can't blame the workers, they're only doing they job' ethos so prevalant on these boards. Whilst it is obvious that improvements in pay, working conditions and training would vastly improve everybody lives and experience in this situation (and consquently should be fought for), should we ignore those who are ultimate victims at the expense of building unity amongst workers. Trite replys that we need to help both, ignore the real conflicts of interests invovled. Any attempt to improve the conditions of the elderly will have to invovle the workers, but it will also need to address the abuse of residents through lack of care. This will mean people being disciplined, sacked and a heavier workload at least in the short term. Try selling that to a demoralised workforce who will probaly only see benefits in the medium/long term. Indeed without a wider campaign to increase funding (linked to pensioner 'rights') which hightlighted the lack of care it would be difficult to envision major improvements happening.

I am not 'blaming the workers', but i do believe that people should take responsibility for their actions. A duty of care is basic when working we vulerable people. Basically any campaign to organise the workers is to be encouraged and engeged with, but equally the current needs of residents need to be fought for, if this can be done in tandem in one campaign i'm not sure.

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the button
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Mar 4 2005 11:42
Jason Cortez wrote:
Basically any campaign to organise the workers is to be encouraged and engeged with, but equally the current needs of residents need to be fought for, if this can be done in tandem in one campaign i'm not sure.

You're dead right Jason (as usual wink ). My example is an easy one because it was to do with a local authority home being closed. The residents didn't want it, their families didn't & neither did the workers. Piece of piss.

Perhaps I might do something you've done yourself on another thread, & say, "substitute prison officers for care workers"........ wink

WeTheYouth
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Mar 4 2005 12:08
Quote:
I am not 'blaming the workers', but i do believe that people should take responsibility for their actions. A duty of care is basic when working we vulerable people. Basically any campaign to organise the workers is to be encouraged and engeged with, but equally the current needs of residents need to be fought for, if this can be done in tandem in one campaign i'm not sure.

Im sure it can be.

for example :"Better Wages, Better Care"

A bit lame but im sure there can be better.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 4 2005 12:57

Great slogan, but it dosen't resolve the tensions that will continue between the different groups. Does anyone know of any ongoing campaigns either worker focussed or resident focussed?

phoebe
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Mar 4 2005 15:26

Focusing on the fact that nursing and care work is usually underpaid and under-staffed and that the real antagonism is caused by the bosses skimping and making life a pain in the arse, rather than the people who live in the homes who just happen to live there.

lucy82
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Mar 4 2005 23:43

i don't know of any campaigns either worker or resident focused. i know that staff campaigned to keep a home open in hulme with the residents who wanted to stay there in a bitter fight some years ago which was lost.

its true better wages do not automatically ensure a duty of care. it is, as jason says, partly a perception of the value of that work. not necessarily just monetary value.

Quote:
Any attempt to improve the conditions of the elderly will have to invovle the workers, but it will also need to address the abuse of residents through lack of care. This will mean people being disciplined, sacked and a heavier workload at least in the short term. Try selling that to a demoralised workforce who will probaly only see benefits in the medium/long term.

you might be wrong there though. even a demoralised workforce knows shit when they see it. often people want it to stop and feel powerless to stop it. sometimes people do speak out and are supported by colleagues about the practices and conditions they see everyday. surely cleaning up abuse through lack of care can be positive especially if its coupled with a decent staff recruitment programme.

but in a wider sense it is to do with how elderly people are valued in society and how we would change that perception of value by changing the structures of care if we could.

redyred
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Mar 5 2005 12:15
WeTheYouth wrote:
It is a key institution which is being held up by immigrant labour, and i have to say its being held up poorly as some of the workers know nothing on nursing and the local authorities are not fronting any money to help train the people which are so vital to society.

In my experience the immigrant labourers aren't so much untrained or bad at their job (in fact most of them seem to be better than the average english worker). The worst thing about the vast amount of immigrant labour in care is the way that the immigrant workers are willing to take so much more shit. While English workers seem to be in almost constant turnover in care work the immigrants (largely Filipino) are actually willing to work fifteen hour days for just a little above minimum wage because of how well it compares to life back home.

The moral factor is something which is really exploited to a huge degree in care work. You're expected to really just put up with stuff because you're supposed to be shouldering the moral burden of social care. If you don't want to do overtime you're being neglectful. If you want higher pay you're accused taking money off your disabled clients. Unionisation is also practically non-existent especially in smaller care homes.

WeTheYouth
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Mar 6 2005 19:51
Quote:
In my experience the immigrant labourers aren't so much untrained or bad at their job (in fact most of them seem to be better than the average english worker). The worst thing about the vast amount of immigrant labour in care is the way that the immigrant workers are willing to take so much more shit. While English workers seem to be in almost constant turnover in care work the immigrants (largely Filipino) are actually willing to work fifteen hour days for just a little above minimum wage because of how well it compares to life back home.

The moral factor is something which is really exploited to a huge degree in care work. You're expected to really just put up with stuff because you're supposed to be shouldering the moral burden of social care. If you don't want to do overtime you're being neglectful. If you want higher pay you're accused taking money off your disabled clients. Unionisation is also practically non-existent especially in smaller care homes.

Not true at all, most workers who are not from this country dont get the training that workers who does come from this country, most immigrants workers for nursing homes work through agencies which requires no training practically, whilst those who live in this country are trained through part time GNVQ courses.

The moral factor is used to keep them quiet though.

redyred
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Mar 6 2005 22:31
WeTheYouth wrote:
Not true at all, most workers who are not from this country dont get the training that workers who does come from this country, most immigrants workers for nursing homes work through agencies which requires no training practically, whilst those who live in this country are trained through part time GNVQ courses.

Maybe in Birmingham. At my workplace the most medically qualified person is a Filipino. I don't think immigration status really has much bearing on how good you are at the job since you can enter care with no relevant qualifications whatsoever anyway. Also in my experience the migrant workers are more likely to work directly for the home/company rather than an agency because they usually come over as a deal with the company that owns the home.

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cantdocartwheels
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Mar 6 2005 23:36

I agree with redyred, its more to do with how the package works than anything else, an eastern european or as martin points out filipino migrant worker for the service industries in east anglia will be sending money back home to a family and therefore be receiving a very small amount of disposable income in addition to being paid very little in the first place. Its also about location, i mean a lot of these jobs are live in, if its in or near a town centre then there is a reasonable degree of freedom, however if your stuck out in some remote area and the bus journey costs £4-5, there are only a few buses a day and you don't speak good english then its hardly surprising that you would be forced to take more shit than an english worker would, what choice have you got round here.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 7 2005 22:56

So Revol, the interests of transport workers and travellers are identical or at least easierly resolvable under the current ecomonic system. And seeing any tensions between different sections of the working class is a bourgeois viewpoint (or at least the strawman of either/or is). roll eyes

A little question, where should we put our limited resources in regards Asylum Seekers

1) Campaign to expose abuses by guards at detention centres.

2) Campaign to improve training, pay and conditions of guards.

3) Better recuirment.

4) Campaign to stop the union's support of racists and abusive guards who are members.

5) Campaign to abolish the asylum laws

6) Propaganda to inform people of the realities faced by asylum seekers

7) Work around the practical everyday needs

Whilst all of these maybe desirable, it is unrealistic to expect to do all of these at present , so where to pioritise? What order of piority would you enrager folk place these? Is it not possible that some of these things may in fact conflict in practise and how do we negoitate this? Now substitute care workers.

I am not claiming to have all the answers, just that we shouldn't always trot out the pat easy answers of it's the bosses fault or it's a social relation etc.

Lucy

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but in a wider sense it is to do with how elderly people are valued in society and how we would change that perception of value by changing the structures of care if we could.

tongue tongue tongue tongue

lucy82
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Mar 8 2005 00:14

bollocks i though it was a straight question jason about asylum and priorities and i replied as such. ah well i took it down

redyred
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Mar 8 2005 00:20
revol68 wrote:
my mum works in a nursing home and believe me the workers don't just think in crude economic terms, my mum is always ranting on about cuts and bureacracy leading to the neglect of residents as well as her having to spend more time doing shite instead of caring for the residents.

Exactly the same at my (privately owned) workplace. We all see it as fairly ironic that we are so poorly paid when our residents barely get enough in benefits themselves, and that the organisation of the home means that both workers and residents get a shit deal. We frequently have to buy tescos value food for them cos there isn't enough money left for the weekly shopping; we take them around in a minibus that is a death trap with one door hanging off; we're constantly ending up short staffed cos the owners refuse to pay that little bit extra for agency. Now clearly the money is going somewhere (e.g. my boss's sportscar) but we're not getting it and neither are the people we look after.

Cortez, it's not a case of prioritising us or them. Carers have long been shat on because of this crap about responsibility and duty, probably more so in the private sector. But because of that industrial action in care work carries that much more clout cos it's not like a company losing a days production or something - the employers actually become forced to do something because care is an essential 24/7 service, much like with firefighters strikes. And because employers have to maintain care standards they cannot improve workers conditions by taking from the residents, it would have to come from their profits or their resposibility.

And as Revol said it's illogical (not to mention fucking insulting) you comparing carers to screws.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 8 2005 11:38

Revol i am not equating the roles you mentioned, just pointing out that these groups of workers/'users' don't have identical needs as you suggest.

Here's an example off the top of my head; ticket inspectors/fare dodgers.

My point about the guards being organised in unions is that it hasn't in this example generally lead to better care but has protected racist and abusive guards from being disciplined.

I'm sorry if it seemed that i was suggesting that care workers and screws were interchangable, i was attempting to show that the two groups (workers/'clients') interests may overlap but are also in conflict at times by using an example where this is more apparent. IMO there are real similarities between carers roles and detainee guards in regards a duty of care to vulverable people.

I am actually interested in where peoplpe would put their energies and why, in regards to asylum seekers, Lucy.

Redyred i have never offered a us or them position, that's a strawman. I am interested in your experience of industrial action, what grounds were used, what actions you took, how successful it was etc. In my experience people who work in situation of care are very reluctant to strike due to concern over how it affects those they care for.

Redyred:

Quote:
And because employers have to maintain care standards they cannot improve workers conditions by taking from the residents, it would have to come from their profits or their resposibility.

So if a strike is successful the employers won't attempt to reduce standards of care because it's the law? Without a wider campaign highlighting the need for our elders to live with respect and the financial independence for them to do so, surely the employers will always attempt to keep costs low either through poor pay and conditions or scrimping on residents care?

Quote:
i think you'll that workers on the ground have been at the forefront of exposing abuse, poor practice and penny pinching that has worked to the detriment of those under their care.

Revol, whilst it has been often the result of some workers actions, it is also often the case that it is an individual worker who blows the whistle, because of not only management unwillingness and corruption but also co-worker apathy or antipathy

random
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Mar 8 2005 19:20
revol wrote:
aslyum seekers don't want to be locked up in the first place and hence their can be no consensus, after all asylum seekers don't want better care, they don't want to be in that "care" fullstop

elderly people rarely want to be locked up in nursing homes either.

redyred
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Mar 8 2005 19:33
random wrote:
revol wrote:
aslyum seekers don't want to be locked up in the first place and hence their can be no consensus, after all asylum seekers don't want better care, they don't want to be in that "care" fullstop

elderly people rarely want to be locked up in nursing homes either.

Random that's off the point and you know it. For a start, the whole point good care environment is that it isn't locking people away. Secondly the analogy still doesn't hold up. Asylum seekers don't need to be detained. The infirm elderly or (or as is the case in my workplace, people with learning disabilities) do need some level of outside support.

random
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Mar 8 2005 19:51
revol wrote:
anyway why didn't you try my carrot cake recipe?

where is it?

lucy82
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Mar 8 2005 19:58

i wrote a long post yesterday answering the question where should we put our limited resources in regard to asylum seekers and took it down cause i didn't think it was relevant to the discussion but jason said he wanted to know so i'm putting it back up. its a straight answer to the difficult question of priortising.

today has been a seriously busy day. we did the demo at dallas court reporting centre and i got home thinking yeah time to relax and then the bbc rang and asked me to do live radio in an hour about the demo. its the first time i've done it and i was scared. but the point is that one of the questions was about the bbc tv programme and what i thought about it and one of the things that really struck me fits with something jason said

Quote:
My point about the guards being organised in unions is that it hasn't in this example generally lead to better care but has protected racist and abusive guards from being disciplined

on the bbc tv programme exposing what happens inside detention centres the union was not only protecting the racist and abusive guards but perpetuating the abuse by compliticity. two filing cabinets full of complaints by asylum seekers against the workforce and the union rep will get the members off cause thats solidarity and thats yr job.

the whole radio thing was really difficult because nice practices with happy well paid unionised people taking care of locked up people inside detention centres and not behaving in shit ways is not what i want. i want them to fucking stop detaining people, no discussion, just stop. but when you have 5 minutes to say everything, why you did the demo, what impact you thought it had, who were you trying to speak to, what do you think of the bbc programme, what do you what to happen? it concentrates the mind wonderfully and it brings out the contradictions too.

the role of detainee guards does include a duty of care just as the role of prison officers includes a duty of care. the most recent advert for group 4 custody officers does play directly into that:

Quote:
this job is so different. the satisfaction i get from helping people is great

it doesn't mean i agree with those roles but of course the duty of care over vulnerable people exists. in practice, it means very little and personally i'd rather shoot puppies for a living.

Quote:

Without a wider campaign highlighting the need for our elders to live with respect and the financial independence for them to do so, surely the employers will always attempt to keep costs low either through poor pay and conditions or scrimping on residents care?

do you think a wider campaign highlighting those needs will make any difference? employers will always attempt to keep costs low through poor pay and conditions or scrimping on residents care. in the lucrative and competative market of caring for the elderly, its fairly difficult to do otherwise. it depends how near the bone you wish to cut your profit margin whilst still staying afloat.

and where will the financial independence come from? we live in a society where what is valued culturally is what makes money, so thats young people, the pink pound, middle class niche markets - almost everybody fits into some marketable category until they get old. then its only the rich old thats interesting. anyone who has no buying status, has no savings, has no power and is unimportant.

anyway i'm sorry this post is pretty much garbled and probably got nothing to do with the topic, but my brain is pretty much gone tonight. but things went really well outside dallas court and we are going back and we kicked them up the arse by being there and in the media and i'm proud of that.

anyway heres the original post for jason.

where should we put our llimited resources in regard to asylum seekers?

i don't think the home office expects too much resistence from anyone outside the asylum seeker him or herself being deported at the actual point of contact, which is the point where people get seized, so i think (and also from what asylum seekers i know have said) that that the 'disappearing point" a good place to start.

also ask asylum seekers what they think should be the next priority if possible and begin from that. you don't always have to agree but if this is a struggle that involves more than some activist group and you really want it to mean anything or get anywhere, then work with people directly affected by this intolerable shit.

after that well..

1. work around the practical everyday needs. one of these needs is not being taken away from your family and detained without warning.

2. inform people of the reality (i don't blame people for spouting shit, if shit and untruths is all people hear. when i talk with people about the reality of whats happening, the majority are shocked. i dont buy the whole white working class ignorant burger munching mass scenerio, its bollocks)

3. campaign then with other people againsnt the practice of asylum laws (which is actually also part of what you are doing in 2). from that some people may want to abolish asylum laws, some people will want an amended version. its not an either/or scenerio for most people. you have to respect that. one of the things i've realised is that some asylum seekers don't want to see immigration laws abolished themselves. its a slow process. you have to work with people not stick your own agenda on whats happening.

4. i don't think training of guards or even pay is the issue. its a really stressful job and they are often shortstaffed but the union should absolutely not support racist and abusive guards because poor working conditions are not an excuse for treating people who are sometimes vulnerable and are in your power like shit.

and i couldn't campaign to improve the conditions of guards personally because to me that would accept the practice of detention even if that improved the treatment of people inside detention centres (which i don't think it would anyway).

exposing abuses is good shock horror tactics to make people look but that really is all it is for. trying to make something change depends on what you and the people you work with want to see change. (see paragraph above.)

although the people who work in the detention centres are responsible for their actions, the reason why detention centres are there in the first place is outside their control and probably the reasons why they work there are no different in essence from the reasons why anybody works anywhere.

the asylum seekers themselves are in there because of the same shit whether it motivates you to go find employment in some crap job where the culture is that you beat up on people and the union protects you or whether you'r fleeing economic or political persecution, it comes from the same source. i know i'm shite at clever class analysis and i'm not even trying as you can no doubt see. but one of the things that struck me when i watched that programme about the detention centre on C4 last week was ultimately it was working class people beating the shit out of themselves.

Jason Cortez
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Mar 9 2005 11:42

Revol

Quote:
industrial action by nurses, carers and firefighters who have always looked to issues outside a narrow economism and whose campaigns have more often than not centred around the issue of decent services.

Those people who work in a 'caring' profession would find it difficult to present their case in any other way, given that 'care' is exactly what would be withdrawn in a strike. The value (rightly) given to 'carers' is partly based on them as having an image of 'putting others first' and so it is difficult for them to seem as acting in their self-interest to some degree. 'Carers' aren't to blame for this preception, but it does constrain how they can act. This is not to say that 'carers' only pretend to campaign around issues of decent care, Just that over factors come into play, that aren't there in other sectors.

Quote:
The argument is whether their interests are complimentary and the fact that it is possible, nay necessary, to make common cause.

I have never said that their interests couldn't be complimentary, just that there are also areas of conflict and tension and there is a need to find ways of negoiating these areas rather than ignoring them as you seem to wish to do. It is pretty obvivious to me that users/comsumers and producers interests aren't always easily reconcilable, that conflicts will need to be addressed. In the case of carers in homes for the elderly, on who's terms is the common cause to be made. At present you are suggesting that it is on the workers terms. I am suggesting that we need to find ways of creating mechanisms for residents to be engaged in the process, rather than their interests just being represented by the workers on the assumption that they are the same.

Quote:
Quote:

Without a wider campaign highlighting the need for our elders to live with respect and the financial independence for them to do so, surely the employers will always attempt to keep costs low either through poor pay and conditions or scrimping on residents care?

Quote:
do you think a wider campaign highlighting those needs will make any difference? employers will always attempt to keep costs low through poor pay and conditions or scrimping on residents care. in the lucrative and competative market of caring for the elderly, its fairly difficult to do otherwise. it depends how near the bone you wish to cut your profit margin whilst still staying afloat.

and where will the financial independence come from? we live in a society where what is valued culturally is what makes money, so thats young people, the pink pound, middle class niche markets - almost everybody fits into some marketable category until they get old. then its only the rich old thats interesting. anyone who has no buying status, has no savings, has no power and is unimportant.

Good point, i was thinking of campaigns to increase the pensions (lead by pensioners) which by nesscary have to confront the low status of the elderly. But thinking about it, wouldn't any increase be absorbed by an corrosponding increase in the homes fees? Like you said before it's gonna take a much bigger shift in perception through changing structures.

phoebe
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Mar 9 2005 13:40
WeTheYouth wrote:
Quote:
In my experience the immigrant labourers aren't so much untrained or bad at their job (in fact most of them seem to be better than the average english worker). The worst thing about the vast amount of immigrant labour in care is the way that the immigrant workers are willing to take so much more shit. While English workers seem to be in almost constant turnover in care work the immigrants (largely Filipino) are actually willing to work fifteen hour days for just a little above minimum wage because of how well it compares to life back home.

The moral factor is something which is really exploited to a huge degree in care work. You're expected to really just put up with stuff because you're supposed to be shouldering the moral burden of social care. If you don't want to do overtime you're being neglectful. If you want higher pay you're accused taking money off your disabled clients. Unionisation is also practically non-existent especially in smaller care homes.

Not true at all, most workers who are not from this country dont get the training that workers who does come from this country, most immigrants workers for nursing homes work through agencies which requires no training practically, whilst those who live in this country are trained through part time GNVQ courses.

The moral factor is used to keep them quiet though.

Um. Lots and lots of immigrants are skilled. Britain has been benefiting from a steady influx of Filipino nurses and care workers for a number of years for instance (whilst less and less British people become nurses themselves on account of the shit wages, mistreatment at work and moral wrangling from bosses). What with the immigration scaremongering it can be pretty hard to get into the country without skills.

lucy82
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Mar 9 2005 19:24
Quote:
What with the immigration scaremongering it can be pretty hard to get into the country without skills.

yeah, i agree but i'd go further and say its more than pretty hard, its pretty much impossible. illegal immigrants and people whose asylum claims have been refused are often well skilled people, many of whom are professional people who end up washing dishes on crap wages with no union rights because they aren't supposed to be here and aren't supposed to work..

even to pay for the passage over here (which is a huge money making racket for the people traffickers) costs a lot of money that your average bod won't have (although its true that whole families will club money together to send one person here in the hope that somehow money will start to flow the other way). ..

shit world we live in.

The Disappeared
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Mar 17 2005 10:27

The first question that springs to mind having read this thread is: Whatever happened to the extended family in the UK?

I have been shocked at the treatment of elders in the UK to me it is a totally alien concept to “farm out” the elders to be cared for by strangers, if what is happening to them in the UK is progress then I don’t want it.

Is it true that you can trace what is happening to the elders in many UK communities back to the economic pressure placed on families that in many cases pushed both parents into work?

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gav
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Mar 17 2005 13:50
The Disappeared wrote:
Is it true that you can trace what is happening to the elders in many UK communities back to the economic pressure placed on families that in many cases pushed both parents into work?

i would have thought that was a significant part of it.