A care worker, whose personal campaign is to put an end to ‘undignified’ 15-minute home care visits, is the inspiration behind a new play being broadcast every day this week on BBC Radio 4.
Flying Visits is loosely based on the experiences of care worker Caroline Firmin, who was being allocated just quarter of an hour to look after each of the elderly and vulnerable people on her patch.
Frustrated with the difficult decisions it was forcing her to make, Firmin gave a speech to councillors at Southwark Council, the South London borough responsible for commissioning care services.
As a result, Southwark Council abolished 15-minute visits and became one of the first local authorities to adopt trade union Unison’s ethical care charter.
Despite the difficulties of caring for people with complex needs in such a short time period, 15-minute visits are still being commissioned by around a fifth of councils in England and Wales, according to Unison.
The Radio 4 drama stars BAFTA-winning actress Claire Rushbrook as Hayleigh, a care worker on the front line. Each episode will last 15 minutes, the same length of time many workers are allocated to administer care.
Playwright Charlotte Bogard Macleod said: “Research led me to an article about home care workers and the flying visits they are forced to make. It seemed extraordinary that as a society we could allow so little time to care for the elderly and most vulnerable.
“For the Flying Visits research I talked to care workers, homecare companies, councillors, MPs, doctors and government ministers. All were struggling with a system that clearly wasn’t working and all agreed social care was in crisis. But two years on, nothing has changed. It’s time to fix that now.”
Commenting on the drama, Unison national care officer Matt Egan – who helped Charlotte with her research – said: “This drama shines a light on a national scandal that must end.
“Care workers and the people they look after are being pushed to breaking point as dangerously short care visits have become the new norm.
“The elderly and those dedicated to caring for them are being failed by a government that’s slashed councils’ care budgets, requiring workers to do more and more in less and less time. This not only puts huge stress on employees, it also denies dignity to the vulnerable people they’re trying to help.”
Image credit: BBC Radio.