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Elderly ‘being left in soiled clothing for hours’ due to Dundee carer shortage

GMB members protesting in Dundee.
GMB members protesting in Dundee.

Elderly people in Dundee are being left sitting for hours in soiled clothing because of a shortage of care workers, according to union leaders.

The accusation comes as a long battle for equal pay for female council workers between the city council and union leaders rages on.

Local GMB chiefs have claimed the ongoing row has led to care workers leaving and difficulty recruiting more.

The pay dispute centres around a claim council employees in jobs mostly filled by men, such as building and maintenance, receive “higher bonuses and enhancements” than other positions with a largely female workforce, such as cooks and cleaners.

Union bosses say thousands of employees have lost out due to the “discriminatory” agreements.

Now GMB organisers have said the issue is causing low staff morale and employees are leaving social care, causing a shortage affecting the elderly and vulnerable.

Suffering pensioners

Jim Cunningham of the GMB said he had personal experience of the “horrendous” situation as an 87-year-old member of his own family is suffering.

“I have first hand experience of an elderly relative sitting for hours in excrement-soiled clothing because there are too few care workers to cover what is asked of them in Dundee,” he said.

“This is absolutely not the fault of the care workers themselves who all do an amazing job under very difficult circumstances.

“Other family members are having to step in to ensure that proper care and treatment is given.”

He said the same family member is being put to bed at 7pm each evening and left there until 8am or 9am the following day, when the care workers are finally able to provide care.

“There is what is being called a “tea and tuck” service where people are being given their tea and then put to bed because there is no time for anything else,” he added.

“This is horrific for the people affected and for families who are having to cope with this.

“There are meant to be proper care packages put in place and it’s just not happening in reality.”

Council care workers protesting outside  the City Chambers in Dundee.

Crunch talks

GMB members are now calling for an urgent meeting with Dundee City Council.

He said: “They have ignored two requests to meet with us to discuss the current crisis in the care sector in the city.

“We are now demanding they meet with us as soon as possible.

“Our grave concern is that the council are deliberately running the sector into the ground in order to hand the care of our elderly over to the private sector.

“We are not prepared to allow this to happen.”

Low morale

Helen Meldrum, Scottish regional officer for the GMB in Dundee, said that morale was at an all time low among care workers in the city.

Helen Meldrum.

She said: “Things have got so bad due to staff shortages and the resulting pressure on individual care workers that they are leaving their jobs and it has become almost impossible to recruit new people.”

It comes after a survey carried out by the union showed more than half of care staff are planning to leave the service.

They also said they do not have enough time to care for service users.

Seven out of 10 workers on split shifts said they feel tired most of the time, while four out of 10 said they feel the shifts don’t allow for a good service.

Helen said: “We keep saying it but the treatment of council care workers, the vast majority of whom are women, is draconian.

“The council are continuing to bury their heads in the sand and they will not engage with either the workers or the union. This has to stop now.”

The battle for equal pay for female council care workers in Dundee has now raged on for several months.

‘No complaints made’

A spokesman for Dundee City Council said no complaints have been made to the health and social care partnership about the care of individual service users.

“The council would not leave vulnerable people at risk, and we take our responsibilities to the people who receive care at home extremely seriously,” he added.

“Any concerns that are raised would be looked into thoroughly, but we have not been provided with any specific details. We would ask that any staff who are aware of any problems should approach their manager immediately.

“We regularly speak to a number of unions representing social care staff and have a programme of planned meetings to look at issues around services. The last request for a separate meeting by the GMB was agreed and held within a week of the request.

“The council continues to recruit to fill vacancies and has no intention to move to wholly commissioned social care at home services.”

Dundee Council accused of ‘head in sand’ approach to equal pay battle with women workers

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