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Bexley councillor Chris Taylor
Cabinet member for Adult Care Services

The man who doesn’t care

Councillor Chris Taylor

Former Bexley councillor Chris Taylor
Cabinet member for Adult Services until he fell victim to UKIP in May 2014

Relevant blogs
28 September 2012
9 November 2012
9 November 2012
7 March 2013
21 March 2013
4 April 2013
5 April 2013
14 June 2013
20 June 2013
24 June 2013
24 July 2013
2 September 2013
15 February 2014

Twice I have heard Bexley councillor Chris Taylor, Cabinet member for Adult Services, say that the problems with care services in Bexley are not his concern because the services are contracted out. So little does he care that he has even extended the contracts of companies providing inadequate services paying no regard to the consequences. I think it is time that some of the consequences became better known.

Having lived in the same street for 26 years I have seen many neighbours in the general vicinity come and go. Over the past year or so I have discovered that several ladies, young and not so young, are working as care workers for Bexley and other councils. From them I have learned a little of how the system works.

In many ways the public services respond well. The NHS seems to provide an inexhaustible supply of expensive equipment to aid care workers and their unfortunate clients, however it can be complex electronic and mechanical stuff that requires skilled human intervention; and that is where things are far from satisfactory. Bexley council’s penny pinching is making a misery of too many lives, and I don’t just mean the disabled and the demented.

Bexley has handed its care services to agencies and as it freely admits it pays them as little as possible; less than any neighbouring borough. The result is inevitable, when things get tough, Bexley residents go to the back of the queue.

The basic problem is that the care workers get paid just one penny an hour above the statutory minimum wage rate as if caring for the elderly and the disabled is a job on a par with washing dishes in a fast food outlet. If only they were treated that well.

Care workers in Bexley are not being paid for the time or the expense involved in getting from one client to the next. No relief from Bexley’s punitive parking regime either. The care workers I have encountered are pleasant well meaning people but they simply cannot afford to do their job in the way that councillor Chris Taylor might imagine they do.

When the care workers arrive at a client’s home they ‘clock in’ via their client’s land line phone because it would be too easy to cheat if they were allowed to use their mobile phones. They similarly clock out when they leave. Sometimes they have to pop out during a session to pick up their children from school. Child minder fees and the minimum wage is not a compatible combination. Chris Taylor may lead a comfortable life with his £22,500 councillor allowance for doing not a lot, but the people whose noses he keeps tightly pressed against the grindstone do not.

A typical morning shift designed to meet three clients’ requirements might mean going to Sidcup for an hour, then Erith for two and back to Welling for an hour with thirty minutes allowed in between for negotiating Bexley’s congested roads. It’s barely practical and the itinerary does not make for efficient use of fuel. For those on minimum wage and footing their employer’s transport costs out of their own pockets the temptation to rejig the schedule is overwhelming. In this example going to Erith first and Sidcup last would make a lot of sense for someone living in the north of the borough - and those I know of all do. The petrol consumption and time wasted would be much reduced but the clients woken up early or left waiting are hugely inconvenienced.

Having seen a care worker sent from Erith to Dartford for a 45 minute session and then ordered back to Belvedere for £4.50 half of which would have gone in petrol, I’m not sure that they should be criticised.

Attempts to claw a meagre living from such work by adjusting the schedule turns a disabled or demented client’s day into a stress filled wait for the next knock on the door. The best that can be hoped for is that visits are made within a four hour window and that the lunchtime visitor won’t clash with the morning one. Any semblance of normal life is impossible, no one knows when teatime or bedtime is going to be.

Sometimes even the disabled need to get out of the house. How do you schedule that when you have no real idea of when the next care worker will come? The agency can be advised “I’d like to be out until 3:30, please don’t send the 4 p.m visitor early” but they come an hour early and go away leaving a bill for their own failure to turn up on time. Bexley council pays.

The inevitable corner cutting imposes a cost on clients, of inconvenience if nothing else. Rushed care workers are striving to be ‘caring’ but the conditions imposed by Bexley council contrive to hinder their best efforts - and do not give them a living wage. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has confirmed that what Bexley has condoned contravenes the minimum wage regulations.

Being a care worker is a responsible job demanding certain skills and human qualities but Bexley council has lost sight of practical realities. It is a disgrace and so is Bexley councillor Chris Taylor.

Malcolm Knight, 4 April 2013
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