I had been planning to blog about the fairly significant changes that have taken place for Rachel and I over the last fortnight anyway.

But then Carer Watch provided a nice new hook by sending me an email regarding the launch of the first ever Carers’ Trade Union.

What a fantastic idea.

It is proactive, determined, professional, passionate, belligerent, fiercely independent and organised. In short, everything that carers are out of choice and necessity.

“The CTU is intended to become a full trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of unwaged carers,” explains the email. “It will seek recognition within the trade union movement. It will also seek negotiating rights on behalf of carers.”

The union is a long-term project, it aims to raise awareness about the unpaid role so many carers fulfil every day of the week. But it will also provide the platform to lobby for greater governmental support.

The role carers play is recognised in official circles. Politicians have been quick to smile their most sincere of smiles, nod their head in the most understanding of ways and agree that carers are the forgotten horde.

Yet very little in the way of practical support has been forthcoming in recent years.

The other, more important reason why the CTU is a long-term initiative is that carers generally have got something better to do with their time.

Many provide 24/7 care, some juggle careers with caring. But for each and every one of us the priority is always the spouse, the parent, the brother or sister, the relative, the close friend who they care for, so something like the CTU has to be approached as (yet another) unpaid and strictly voluntary initiative.

There are plenty of requirements on our time as it is. But, with enough support and a fair wind, the CTU could develop into the type of organisation we need.

Which brings me on to the changes that have impacted on Rachel and I in the last fortnight.

After a little over two years of self-employment, mainly working from home so that I can juggle career with caring, I’ve accepted a full-time 12-month contract.

In many ways it was an easy decision, primarily because it is a very good job with an interesting organisation. Two weeks in, I’ve no doubt that the right decision has been made.

But in other respects there was a lot of thinking to do. It will – and already is – having a major impact on our home life and my caring role.

Having spent the best part of 18 months getting used to our situation – for me, the fact that I am a carer; for Rachel, the fact that she needs care – we are now going through a period of significant upheaval. It has all been largely positive so far, although Rachel struggled last week.

I found it difficult at times to keep everything in the air, moving without collision. There were a number of times that I walked out of the front door wishing I could stay put and make sure Rachel didn’t have to do anything other than rest.

Throw in the on-going debacle that is our washing machine – we have a new one on order, but last week was spent shuttling washing back and forth to my brother-in-law’s flat (thanks Simon) – and it was a hectic few days.

Yet I’ve still been able to juggle, not least because my office is just 15 minutes walk from home and I’m able to take the short stroll home at lunchtime (not every day).

It also means I don’t have to leave the house quite so early in the morning and I can be home by 5.30pm, or earlier.

There’s a good deal of flexibility in my new position, for which I’m very grateful (the flexibility also extends to being able to continue with some freelance writing and consultancy work).

The security of the 12-month contract is another factor. We haven’t exactly struggled since we became a one income household, but equally it hasn’t always been easy.

And with the merchants of financial doom managing to scare the living daylights out of everyone I have noticed budgets tightening and fees getting squeezed.

The new role, therefore, ticks each and every box. Above all, it is very much the right job at the right time in the right location.

Now that I’m no longer at home the majority of the time, I’m also having to learn a whole new juggling act.

I’ll drop a few balls along the way, I probably have stumbled already.

But with Rachel remaining my main priority, I am still a carer. And I am still fortunate enough to be able to have a career.

I remain a very lucky man.

I will also be joining the Carers’ Trade Union this week.

As a footnote of sorts, there is another Social Media Surgery for Voluntary Organisations taking place in Birmingham on Wednesday (26th) – you can sign up via here.

The first coincided with Blog Action Day and proved such a resounding success that those social media surgeons who took part decided to host another session.

The reason I mention it – apart from the fact that the efforts of all those involved deserve a mention – is that at the last session the Carers Network came away with some invaluable advice and ideas on how it could make use of social media.

Carers often need all the help they can get, not least because we’re not always very good at asking for it.

But events like the surgery and initiatives like the new trade union are a great way of being proactive and getting the right help from the right people.


7 responses »

  1. Clive says:

    No Carerwatch are naive, a closed shop, scared of criticism and unable to take advice. They claim to represent ALL Carers but refuse to allow ALL Carers to be able to see what they are saying.

    Most Carers do not want “another forum” this is the third they have set up. Some socialist unworkable trade union is yet another example of something that is doomed to failure. Hell, some Carers are even insulted that this way has been mentioned. it’s a forum, a clique it isn’t anything other than that.

    The government have stated Carers are NOT workers, some of us emailed Anne McGuire and Ivan Lewis for a “written statement of employment” just to ‘test the water’.

    What Carers REALLY need is the national media to start a big push to get Carers Allowance saved and increased to a level that reflects the work WE do. But the national media are more interested in portraying ANYONE on benefits to be dole scrounging work-shy layabouts. That is what needs to be addressed, not the formation of some joke trade union.

  2. Paul Groves says:

    Clive: Thanks for sharing your opinion.
    But I’ll stick to my original thoughts on the CTU.

    Experience tells me there are several ways of engaging the national media – whingeing is one, but tends not to be very productive; doing something proactive and raising awareness is another and that often produces more positive results.
    Experience also tells me, it takes time and effort and can be incredibly frustrating.
    But, as carers, we’re used to that aren’t we?

  3. clive says:

    Takes time? Well we’ve been waiting 40 years for change so please give me a time-frame for change?

    There’s a good chance I’ll be dead before change happens, well- if all there is to rely on for Carers is some out-of-date socialist idea of a trade union that can’t take criticism. What happens when the government (both parties will be the same but can you imagine a TORY government taking notice of any union? Lets not be naive about that) criticises them, they then do what they have done in the past and step away and refuse to tell them what they are doing?
    Come on this is a joke and a sick one at that.

    OK you are a freelance journalist, put your money where your mouth is, get an article into the press stating that you want support from all other media sources to challenge for a higher (justified) level of Carers Allowance…..or is it easier to just blog about it without openly stating that you think people on benefit deserve a level of income that reflects the work they do?

    I don’t whinge, I’m seen as too aggressive for ‘whinging’ and am too savvy to fall for yet another joke of a place claiming to talk for me but not allow me to state what I think about them, that’s how the Carer charities work and I have no time for them either. Please feel free to join this ‘trade union’ that does not satisfy ‘union’ rules. Reasonable interaction with government has failed and failed miserably for YEARS. That’s a fact.

    My disabled wife and I, like other Carers and the people they care for, are freezing our asses off NOW, THIS VERY MINUTE AS I TYPE. Give me an estimate of how long we should wait to feel not cold during winter, oh, and as usual, there won’t be a ‘Christmas’ here as we can’t afford it, that isn’t “whinging” that is our life, it’s a fact as is not being able to treat my wife on her 50th birthday. Trade Union for Carers? Don’t make me laugh

  4. Paul Groves says:

    Clive: You stick to your attempts to win friends and influence people and I’ll stick to mine.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Clive wrote
    “The government have stated Carers are NOT workers, some of us emailed Anne McGuire and Ivan Lewis for a “written statement of employment” just to ‘test the water’.”

    So you take notice of what Anne McGuire and Ivan Lewis reply to you in their position as government ministers?
    I’m amazed that you would take any notice, they’d hardly agree would they?

    Doesn’t what you do as a carer feel like work? It feels like work to me, I do for my mother exactly what I did as a care worker in a residential home for the elderly. The only difference is as a “care worker” I was paid a proper hourly rate and as an “unpaid carer” I’m not.


  6. Dugsie says:

    We have been discussing the formation of a Carers’ Trade Union for some time now, on Carer Watch and elsewhere. We decided that we needed to actually establish the trade union now, even with a very limited membership. We wanted to come to terms with the practicalities of having a trade union for carers, instead of just talking about it. We are on a very steep learning curve and need all the help we can get.

    The opposition of Clive is not unexpected. He invariably opposes all initiatives which do not emanate from himself.

  7. Paul Groves says:

    Dugsie: Thanks for the clarification (on everything!). I still think the union has huge potential and will support it in any way I can.

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