Disabled Forest Hall woman ‘petrified for future’ due to care staff shortage over ‘low pay’

A severely disabled Forest Hall woman has called on the local council and health authorities to up the wages it pays her carers – as for the past ten months she has not been able to replace people looking after her who have left.

Mary Laver, 75, has severe arthritis which leaves her wheelchair-dependent and a range of other complex mental and physical health conditions. She receives continuing healthcare provision provided by the NHS clinical commissioning group alongside North Tyneside Council social services.

Due to her complex condition, Mary is entitled to round-the-clock care, but with care staff leaving for other jobs the strain has grown on the remaining staff – who are only paid £ 9.50 an hour. There are several vacancies on the team who look after her – but they’ve been unfilled for months now and the other carers are now “burnt out”. Mary said that the low pay-rate was part of the reason recruitment had been difficult – and said she was “petrified for the future” about what might happen if new carers couldn’t be attracted to the roles.

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She told ChronicleLive: “When I have all my carers staff, I have eight. At the moment there are six. I have severe arthritis and am totally confined to a wheelchair. My carers have to do everything for me. But they are only being paid the minimum wage. I have such complex needs I have asked them again and again will they up the rate that they pay? There are lots of jobs out there offering people more money. ”

The council and the CCG both dispute that the pay rate is a “barrier” to recruitment.

Mary Laver from Forest Hall with carer Bev Reynard
Mary Laver from Forest Hall with carer Bev Reynard

Mary – who is a veteran disability rights campaigner – said that she felt “lucky in some ways” because the carers who had stayed in their jobs had done so out out loyalty. But she added: “The rate of £ 9.50 for what they do is not enough.” She added that she wanted to speak out because low pay in the care sector had an impact on far more people than just herself.

One of Mary’s carers, Beverley Reynard, added: “When I started the rate was £ 9.50, but that was then two pounds above the minimum wage. Over the last few years with it rising we have asked for pay rises but never had one. For the last ten months Mary has been down staff. We have worked through lockdown and Covid, we have had to work extra to cover for when people have left. We have had to forego holidays. Mary’s problem now is her staff are burnt out and we are not attracting new staff. “

Both women said they felt they had received conflicting messages from the council and the CCG, and Bev added: “Mary’s petrified about if nothing happens, she’s terrified of being in a nursing home. There’s nationally a shortage of carers – that’s because we don ‘ t get paid what we need to be. It’s come to a head., we’re in a crisis. “

ChronicleLive understands that the plan is now for agency staff to fill in the gaps – but Mary is worried about the impact new people regularly coming in and out of her home will have on her mental health.

North Tyneside Council and the North Tyneside NHS CCG said they could not comment on individual cases. In a joint statement, the organizations said: “While we recognize there have been significant challenges in the care sector particularly over the last year, both the CCG and the council have worked together to ensure that people who require care and support have had their care needs met appropriately.

“Where needed we do support people to recruit their own care staff and whilst recruitment to care jobs can be difficult we are confident that successful recruitment can be achieved and rate of pay is not a barrier to this, although sometimes it is necessary to use temporary staff whilst recruitment takes place.

“The CCG and the council will continue to work together to ensure that people in North Tyneside with care and support needs have the right levels of care and would like to thank all care staff for their dedication and support.”

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