The “shocking” rate of pay for many care workers on the Fylde coast has been called into question amid a row over parking.
Suggestions a proposed care home in Cleveleys would need only a handful of car park spaces –because most staff are too badly paid to afford a car –were met with anger and disbelief.
The comments were made as members of Wyre Council’s planning committee discussed an application for a 44-bed facility in Cleveleys.
When pressed over why the designs included just five parking spaces, Paul Sedgewick, agent for the application, said it would not be a problem because carers were poorly paid, and would rely on public transportation instead of driving.
He added: “It’s only the senior staff and the occasional visitor that would come using cars.”
Public services union Unison called the comments “outrageous” while one of the councillors in the meeting said she was stunned to hear poor pay “presented as a positive thing”.
The plans, which followed the previous rejection of a 48-bedroomed care home at the same site on Coronation Road, were submitted by nursing accommodation company Morvern Care Centre.
The three-storey development was turned down again at the meeting at Thornton Little Theatre on Wednesday, where committee members raised concerns about the number of parking spaces –as well the size of the proposed development and the impact on neighbours.
In response to the remarks about care workers’ pay, a Unison spokesman said after the meeting: “(This) outrageous comment... just shows the low regard in which care workers are held.”
Councillor Cheryl Raynor, who moved for the plans to be dismissed on the grounds of its height, scale and mass, and its potential adverse effects on neighbours, said afterwards: “I was really shocked that this was presented as a positive thing.
“To be honest, I can’t believe it was used as a reason to justify only having five parking spaces – that they pay their carers such bad wages that they can’t afford to drive.
“At the moment, it’s probably cheaper to use a car than it is to take public transport.”
Coun Mary Stirzaker, who used to be a carer, and seconded Coun Raynor’s motion, added: “(Carers) are badly paid, there’s no doubt about it.
“But if they do have a car, and it may be a banger, they will have to park somewhere, and parking in that area is horrendous because many of the houses don’t have drives.
“They would have to get the staff in from outside Cleveleys, and so where are they going to park? If you have a car, it’s cheaper to drive than use the bus.
“Carers are poor at the moment. They need better pay.
“I don’t think things have changed since the 90s. Caring professionals are struggling because of financial reasons. For the care and work you put in, you are not financially rewarded.
“It’s heartbreaking watching people dying, which is essentially what carers do. You develop a bond with a person and then they die, and it’s really hard work, and I don’t think they are appreciated.”
Morvern Care Centre was approached for comment.
'A NATIONAL CRISIS'
Years of Government cuts have been blamed for low pay for care workers, with public services union Unison calling for all staff to get a living wage.
Blackpool branch secretary Neil Adams said: “Low pay in social care is sadly endemic. A combination of brutal care funding cuts by Government and the prevalence of care providers who prioritise profit rather than patients has proven toxic.
“The government has chronically underfunded the sector for years and now we are faced with a national care crisis. In spite of this, millions of pounds are sucked from the sector every year by shadowy businesses, many of which are operating UK care homes from tropical tax havens. Meanwhile, care home residents go short.
“In spite of the vital job they do, our care workers are one of the most exploited groups of workers in the country. Many care workers are paid just the national minimum wage and shockingly, a significant number of care workers’ hourly rate drops below the legal minimum.
“Thousands of home care workers- who visit elderly and disabled people’s homes to deliver care- are not paid for their time travelling between care visits, which sees them paid less than £5 per hour in some cases.
“The outrageous comment made by the agent to Wyre Council just shows the low regard in which care workers are held. They should be seen as heroes who do one of the hardest and most important jobs in society.
“Such low wages will leave staff relying on the state to top up their income; effectively our taxes subsidising the employer’s wage bill.
“Unison believes that care workers should be paid at least the real living wage of £9.30 per hour and we call on local councils to sign up to our Ethical Care Charter which ensures high quality care and decent working conditions for those delivering it.”
'FACING A MONSTROSITY'
Neighbours had objected to the planned care home, saying it was far too big for the area.
After an appeal against the rejection of an earlier application for a 48-bed facility was thrown out in August, Morvern Care Centre returned with plans for a slightly smaller 44-bed version.
Speaking at the public meeting, Cellis Fitzgerald, who lives on Coronation Road, said: “I live opposite the site and would be facing a four-storey monstrosity. The loss of light and privacy would be enormous.
“It would be looming directly over me. I own a first-floor flat and it would be impossible to even imagine what it would be like.”
Coun Rob Fail also attended to speak in her support, as he said he did not believe the new development would improve the area.
Mr Sedgewick said: “I’m disappointed that the neighbours have not accepted the changes made.
“Hopefully the planning committee will now approve these changes so we can develop a scheme that will provide much-needed accommodation and care for elderly people.”
The application, which was recommended for approval, was supported by councillors Graham Holden and Sue Catterall, but they were outvoted.