Dependent caregivers tell of working 70-hour weeks when demanding pay increases for Real Living Wage

Carers today spoke of their struggle with the cost of living crisis as they called for a Real Living Wage.

Dozens of activists demonstrated in Parliament Square demanding a pay rise.

Selam Simon, 34, from North London, who has been a carer for six years, is paid £10 an hour.

She said: “I can’t get essentials, I’m struggling to pay the rent, which is £900 a month for a room in a shared flat.

“It’s so expensive, that’s why we need a Real Living Wage.”

Selam Simon at the demo in Parliament Square


Sonja Pferdemann)

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Selam is on a zero hour contract and typically works between 20 and 30 hours a week.

“I never know how many hours I’m going to get,” she said.

“I only get my roster for next week on a Friday – that doesn’t leave me much time to plan and sometimes they cancel at short notice.

“I’m very depressed and stressed.”

The voluntary rate, paid by organizations accredited to the Living Wage Foundation, is £9.90 per hour, rising to £11.05 in London.

By contrast, the statutory minimum rate for over-25s across the UK will be £9.50 from tomorrow (FRI) through the National Living Wage.

Mum-of-three Carol Thompson, 54, of Colne, Lancs, who has been a caregiver for 15 years, said: “I’m a lone worker supporting three adults with learning disabilities on a 24-hour shift in assisted living and I make minimum wage paid.

“I take care of all their medicines – I order them, administer them, I do stock checks, I run their housekeeping, health and safety checks, fire controls, as well as personal hygiene – cooking, cleaning, ironing – and escorting them to activities.

Carol Thompson, a Lancashire carer, at the demo


Sonja Pferdemann)

“The job is endless.

“The cost of living is going up, we have staff who have had to deal with Covid.

“I fight this because I’m so fed up with employees not getting the recognition they deserve.

“We worked through the pandemic, we were promised that we would get recognition as key workers – and we won’t.

“We have staff leaving because of poor pay, we have staff relying on Tafel – it’s ridiculous.

“You get paid better in the supermarket.”

Fredelyne Evbuomwan, 54, from Nottingham, has been a home care worker for three years and visits recently discharged hospital patients.

Fredlyne Evbuomwan from Nottingham at the protest


Sonja Pferdemann)

Fredelyne, who earns minimum wage, said: “The bills are incredible, the cost of living — everything is going up.”

He works up to 70 hours a week to support his wife and two boys, aged 11 and 18, and pay a £465 monthly mortgage.

“It’s really killing me, I’m always on my feet,” he said.

“I have to work those hours to keep up with the bills – sometimes seven days a week.

“Of course it’s stressful for me, the challenge is so big.

“But I also do it for the joy of seeing the smiles on people’s faces. I see it as a calling, it’s my duty – to serve these people.

“A Real Living Wage would mean a lot to me, it would bring joy not only to me but also to my family because I would see my family more because I didn’t have to work as long hours.”

Chidi Nnodim, 34, was a carer in Cardiff for eight months after moving from Nigeria.

Chidi Nnodim, a Carer from Cardiff


Sonja Pferdemann)

He earns £8.90 an hour and juggles 20 hours a week as a supervisor while studying data science in college.

“What I earn is not enough to cover my living expenses and expenses,” says Chidi, who has a two-year-old daughter.

“I pay £525 a month in rent and also take care of my family.

“I feel tired most of the time.

“I care about people, so I have to put all my attention and passion into it. But the fight overtakes me, I have to give everything.”

Today’s demonstration was organized by grassroots campaigning organization Citizens UK.

Members from branches in Wales, Leicestershire, Nottingham, Greater Manchester, East London and Tyne and Wear waved flags as they protested.

Citizens Chief Executive Matthew Bolton


Sonja Pferdemann)

Citizens chief executive Matthew Bolton called on the government to provide earmarked cash so all carers receive at least the Real Living Wage.

He said: “Right now there is a risk that with the cost of living crisis – bills going through the roof – we are going to have a staffing crisis in social care.

“Nurses have shown through the pandemic how absolutely necessary their work is – they must be paid accordingly.”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless work of health and social care workers during the pandemic.

“We are investing at least £500m in the support and development of care workers over the next three years as part of our £5.4bn social care reform.

“We make sure the welfare system is funded so providers can pay social workers the national minimum wage and the national living wage.

“Since the introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016, caregiver pay has increased faster than before.”

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