Dear public of Scotland
I wish people knew how undervalued care workers feel. One summer I was recruited by an organisation through my university to support a summer school programme for children with disabilities and about 3 weeks in it was announced that we wouldn’t be paid until the end of summer (after about 7 weeks work unpaid) because the funding was tied up in education budgets. And the full time staff who were there year-round didn’t bat an eyelid, not because they didn’t have bills to pay but because they had become used to these sorts of announcements. And at the end of that summer of really hard work and long hours and learning I remember seeing just over £1000 in my bank account, which barely covered my travel and living expenses and wondering if I should have worked in WHSmith. And then, when I was one of the managers, I felt shit about doing the same thing to staff that had been done to me. It devastated me to only be able to allow 2 people to attend the funeral of someone they worked with when 6 people asked and there’s noone else to cover and you can barely breathe while you’re calling people to tell them. It’s not the staff or the managers, it’s the whole system that undervalues the work we do.
I would love people to know how much working in care has shaped who I am now. The nature and privilege of this work is that you are able to be part of other people’s worlds; you learn their habits and secrets and routines. But at the same time, they also become part of your little world. I always remember one man I worked with who was super excited about Christmas and we spent weeks searching for the perfect carrot for rudolph and it was the most frustrating and hilarious month of my life to stand with a man in a supermarket doing x-factor style feedback on carrots. But it mattered to him, so it mattered to me. The point is that even now, I find myself dissolving into fits of giggles at the veg aisle in the supermarket. My relationships with people I worked with over the years are the foundation of my sense of humour and my personal resilience.
Dear public of Scotland
I wish you knew.
I wish you knew how much I wanted to be able to look after your children.
I wish you knew how guilty I felt dropping you off at nursery this morning
I wish you knew how bad I felt that I could not fulfil my duty.
I wish you knew that I didn’t want to leave that morning.
I wish you knew how much I wanted to be there.
To give you the reassurance you needed.
To take your children to where they needed to be.
To look after them safely. But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t be there in person.
I wish you knew that I don’t make the best decisions all the time.
When I am busy.
When I am tired.
When I am angry.
Sometimes I must sacrifice family life from time to time.
Sometimes I must sacrifice work from time to time.
I wish you knew how work piles up. How covering for sickness and absence puts pressure on me to complete my work. How meeting deadlines, writing reports, responding to emails keeps me from spending time with you.
I wish you knew that I feel lonely too. That I need support too. That I need a drink from time to time too.
I wish you knew how hard it is to share with you the difficulties that I face, day in day out. To keep a professional distance, when all I want to do is tell you, ‘I’m struggling too’.
I wish you knew how helpless, powerless, frustrated, under pressure, angry and undervalued I can feel in a single day.
I wish you knew how often I sneak away to the toilet to cry because the pressure of the work I do takes its toll.
But I need you to know that you’re my number 1.
That I don’t normally feel like this.
That being on the sofa with you at the end of the day is the best part.
I wish you knew.
Dear public of Scotland
I wish people knew how hard it was to get social care for those in genuine need. They’ve paid their taxes for years and years then when they need help they are told there is no money to fund their care. It’s frustrating as a worker for a voluntary organisation there to help people understand their self directed support options and support them to get assessed that so few meet the strict criteria for care. How do you tell someone they aren’t able to get help when their next door neighbour gets help with personal care and to do social activities? How do you explain that 5 years ago things were ok but now there is no money and only the most critical cases will be given money for personal care? What happens to everyone else? We can only do so much.
It’s saddening going out to see people who have to use their own money to pay carers because they only get the bare minimum about of money for care which no where covers what they need. Seeing people housebound because social hours are no longer funded so people are left in their house isolated and lonely and lacking in vitamin D.
Deciding whether to share my own experiences with those I work with is a difficult choice. Do I tell people that I personally receive self directed support and tell them what I use it for? Share my experiences and let them know I’ve been there, that I know what it’s like. Or might that make them more frustrated that they can’t get help when others around them have support in place.
Being a worker and a receiver of care can be brilliant but also difficult. I come with an understanding of disability and social care from a personal perspective and also a worker’s perspective. I can empathise with people but often am judged because of my personal background – people see that before my job. I want people to know that people with lived experience are the best to work in this field as they understand what people are going through and that makes people trust them. See the person before their disability. Just because someone has a disability or receives care doesn’t mean that they can’t work in social care. They can have just as much work experience and qualifications as anyone else, sometimes even more.
Everyone needs to do more to ensure those that need help get it. Bring back the community spirit where everyone helped each other, support your neighbours who are elderly or disabled by providing company or offering to do their shopping. It doesn’t need to be much but it shows people care.