One Chesterfield care worker, who did not wish to be named, said she felt like she’d been ‘thrown under a bus’ when she heard the news that Derbyshire County Council was awarding the payment to homecare workers from the private and voluntary sector – but not its own staff.
The authority was given £2.1million by Derby and Derbyshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which was split between 3,900 homecare workers, but claimed it’s own policy forbid it from passing the retention payment onto its own employees.
“No pay rise for two years and then this,” the care worker added.
“We have worked right through Covid – going in to people with Covid, dealing with medication and much more.”
Andrew Barnes, of Grassmoor, has been a care worker for four years, including three years at The Spinney, Brimington, and contracted Covid at the height of the pandemic.
“There was no protection for staff at all,” he said.
“They didn’t get any visors, they didn’t have masks.
“So I caught it and nine other staff caught it as well.”
The 47-year-old said he was working 45 to 50 hour weeks, with many of his colleagues doing the same once Covid struck and many staff were off sick.
In January, the council made a desperate plea to all employees to volunteer as back-up at its care homes, as its workforce faced unprecidented strain as a result of staff sickness.
Mr Barnes still suffers as a result of long Covid, struggling to catch his breath sometimes.
He is currently off work suffering from mental illness, but is angry on behalf of his colleagues who didn’t get the payment.
“Policy or not, those care staff have earned that money,” Mr Barnes said.
“Domestic, care staff, seniors – they have all worked in that building while Covid has been present and for them to get nothing disgusts me.”
A consultation over the potential closure of seven council-run care homes, including The Spinney, is due to close this Friday (March 4) and Mr Barnes said uncertainty over the future of the facilities has caused stress for staff and residents.
“Those residents, they’re restless,” he continued.
“Some of them have been in there 20 plus years and the council is chucking them out.
“I’ve seen these residents upset that they don’t know where they’re going.
“They’re in their 80s and they’re having to worry about what’s happening next.”
He expressed disbelief at the council’s claim that it would find suitable alternative accommodation for the residents if the homes are closed.
“There are no care homes for them to go to,” Mr Barnes said.
He commented that staff who work in care homes are in more danger of catching Covid as well, because they are in an enclosed space, as opposed to homecare workers who can come and go.
Mr Barnes said he wasn’t upset that he didn’t get the money, but it was the principle of care workers being passed over for it that made him angry.
“I don’t feel I was appreciated,” he concluded.
A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “The health and well-being of our employees and the people we look after is always our highest priority.
“Throughout the pandemic all our staff on the frontline did and continue to do an incredible job in very difficult circumstances to support vulnerable people.
Visit the council’s website by the end of Friday to take part in the care homes consultation.