Wednesday 25 March 2015

£1 an hour

The BBC reported on allegations that MiHomeCare was paying care staff less than the minimum wage a couple of weeks back (story here), but it seems that nobody in County Hall in Carmarthen was paying attention.

Roll forward to yesterday, and the BBC was in Carmarthenshire with two former MiHomeCare employees who told the reporter for Radio 4's Today Programme what it was like to work for this company, which is providing its services to Carmarthenshire County Council as Village Care. You can hear the interview here at 1 hour 48 minutes in.

The service provided is domiciliary care, mainly for the elderly living at home, and comprises short visits interspersed by often long journeys to the next patient. MiHomeCare has, it seems, been indulging in "clipping", which means paying just 5 minutes travel time for carers who have to travel long distances around the countryside between appointments. 16.1 miles being the example quoted in the interview.

One of the women had also been employed as a supervisor, and was paid just £10 (before tax and NI) for a 10 hour shift on call.

Doing the maths

Responsible for social care for the elderly in Carmarthenshire is Cllr Jane Tremlett (Independent). As Cadno pointed out in last week's Carmarthenshire Herald, viewers of the recent council webcast of a meeting which "debated" Leighton Andrews' proposals for local government reform could listen to Cllr Tremlett inviting the public to do the maths on councillors' allowances which she reckoned worked out at rather less than the minimum wage.

Mrs T is paid £29,000 a year (plus expenses and other perks such as a generous local government pension scheme), which Cadno works out is the equivalent of working just over 90 hours per week, or 13 hours a day for 7 days, on the minimum wage.

Cllr Tremlett is currently overseeing plans to outsource what is left of the council's domiciliary care services to private sector operators like MiHomeCare.

Value for Money

Even more fortunate is her party boss, Cllr Pam Palmer, who picks up £31,000 for being a deputy without having responsibility for an actual department within the council. That's 96 hours a week for someone working down on the recycling lines at CWM (the responsibility of Cllr Colin Evans, Lab, £29,000), or rather longer if you work for a company contracted to provide care services for the council.

Since being elevated to this lofty position in May 2012, Pam has held five "decision meetings". 2013 was a particularly busy year with three such meetings, but business has been slow since then. The most recent meeting, where she rubber stamped a secret protocol on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, took place in May 2014. The RIPA meeting took 25 minutes, and a second session later that day took 20 minutes to approve "revised information governance policies". Governance and information governance in particular were areas where the subsequent WLGA peer review panel felt there was considerable room for improvement in Carmarthenshire.

That's one 45 minute meeting in 18 months.

When she isn't slaving away in decision meetings, Pam's other duties include being Youth Ambassador for Carmarthenshire. To put it kindly, the world was a very different place when Pam was a girl. Britain still had an empire and there was rationing for a start.

While she is entitled to a free bus pass, she recently voted to introduce charges for children aged 16+ using school buses and a raft of other cuts which will hit young people.

The reason for this state of affairs, boys and girls, is that Pam is entitled to a free bus pass, and the bad news is that while she is entitled to free travel on her salary of £31,000 plus pension plus perks, she does not think your children should be allowed to live the life of Riley and lounge around on school buses for free.

As we know, Pam is none too keen on Leighton's proposed reforms, which among other things would see the pay and perks of deputies pruned back.

Back in May 2012 Kevin Madge decided that he could not cope with just one deputy, and so we now have two, the other being Cllr Tegwen Devichand (Lab., £31,000). That was about the same time that he got the council to order a second Mercedes black limo so that he did not have to share with Cllr Siân Thomas while she was Chair of Council.

How much deputising these two veterans actually do is a mystery. When Kevin Madge was absent from a council meeting recently, neither of them was willing or able to stand in for him and answer questions addressed to him.

Brother Madge

Going further up the greasy pole, we come to Cllr Kevin Madge (Lab), scraping by on just £48,000 basic. Let's call it £50,000 with expenses. To earn that, someone on the minimum wage would have to work round the clock, 7 days a week.

Of course, all this is chicken feed when we get to the big performers among the council's senior officers. One chief executive costs almost as much to keep going as the 20 Polish-speaking workers one of CWM's sub-contractors was looking to recruit recently.

How screwing very low paid council staff - even if they are fashionably "at arm's length" - squares with the socialist and/or Christian beliefs these members of the Executive Board like to wear on their sleeves is a question for us all to ponder.


Blodwen said...

Reading this before breakfast made me very angry, raised my blood pressure and gave me severe indigestion. Although at some level of consciousness we know about this travesty, seeing the facts and figures in black and white brings this appalling state of affairs home with a shocking thump.
What sort of world are we living in when this situation can arise - and, worse, is condoned by Labour councillors and pseudo-Christians?

m1books said...

This is now an appalling and critical situation for many of the most vulnerable. The Health Board are making attempts to get discussion going on the integration of health and social care services but the local authority depends so heavily now on various out-sourced services it will be a mammoth task to get all these parties round a table. As some one who employs care workers via the Direct Payments scheme, whenever we advertise a vacancy there are always several applications from tired, upset and disillusioned workers from the private sector. Often they do not mind the low pay but the shifts organisation, travel, lack of compassion and mismatching of workers to clients and worst of all complete disregard for their feedback crushes their commitment. Many of these minimally trained (half a day, one day shadowing) staff are thrown in at the deep end and give up within weeks. Thus staff turnover is massive and the lack of continuity has a stressful and negative impact on the very people who already have difficult and lonely lives. The regulation of these 'businesses' should be much more robust, and whistleblowers supported.

Anonymous said...

Let's face it Tegwen Devichand just hasn't got the ability to lead anything - she compares very favorably with Kevin when we consider her total lack of - well talent to do anything, except appear in a photo-shoot - and with her mispronouncing and mangling of the English language.

Redhead said...

"Labour councillors and pseudo Christians" - you mean pseudo-Labour councillors and pseudo Christians AND pseudo Independents.

Blodwen said...

You are, of course, quite right Redhead. Pseuds, the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

Great to see the usual subjective Labour knocking. Councillor Devichand is extremely hard working, dedicated and has worked hard and has achieved a great deal for the community. What has been said here about her is quite defamatory. It seems to me that the only thing achieved by Plaid is a tremendous amount of complaining and procrastination. What have they actually achieved apart from abstaining and pulling political stunts at the last minute? It seems to me they should start having a much more mature attitude and remember they are elected to serve the community and consider some consensual politics.

Anonymous said...

"......and remember they are elected to serve the community and consider some consensual politics".
What, like Labour remembers and serves the community by hiking the council tax by nearly 5% and council house rents by over 4%, whilst refusing to fund these from reserves?
And then 'finding' £5 million to pay for a new road for the benefit of private developers.

26 March 2015 at 11:36

Anonymous said...

Like Plaid playing politics with the budget and not coming in with any plans until the last minute? How is that helping the community? Perhaps you could have made a difference? Plaid councils have hike the council tax up just as much. What's your comment on this? Only knock Labour as knocking the real culprits is not politically expedient. Short sighted politics.