On Wednesday 14th May, in front of over 250 members and guests of West London Citizens at the Ealing Citizens Accountability Assembly in a packed hall at William Perkin C of E School, Cllrs Julian Bell and David Millican, the Labour and Conservative candidates for leader of the council pledged to support the West London Citizens social care campaign in all respects save one. They refused to commit to paying all council contracted care workers the London Living Wage of £8.80 per hour.
Ealing Citizens is a chapter of West London Citizens, and is part of Citizens UK, Europe's largest community alliance made up of civic institutions and faith congregations. Ealing Citizens asked the councillors to publicly commit to mandatory training requirements for all care workers, and to provide better access to help and advice for those who face the reality of arranging care for family and loved ones. Both councillors agreed. Cllr Bell spoke of his own experience in arranging social care and his first-hand knowledge of the difficulties involved. Cllr Millican gave his support for third-sector organisations who help families navigate the complexities of arranging care.
Catherine, a care worker for an agency in Ealing, told how she was paid a low wage and did not receive pay for time or travel between care recipients:
“The effect of all this means that I don’t have much time to spend with my family and money is very tight. It makes me feel very stressed, undervalued and worried about those people I see each week, who I know need more help than I am able to give – and this makes me angry.”
Both Cllr Millican and Bell pledged to improve the conditions of employment for council care workers. Cllr Millican said that 'Social care is a real problem and something a Conservative led council would seek to address'. Cllr Bell also reinstated his commitment to 'paying all our staff a London Living Wage'. Both councillors pledged to meeting Ealing Citizens in the future, should they win leadership of the council. Cllr Bell congratuled Ealing Citizens: 'It is impressive how many people you manage to turn out at these events, tonight is another example of this'.
Ealing Citizens also raised the issues of safety on Streets and Public Transport, the problems of disability access, and the increasingly pressing issue of homelessness across the borough. Ealing Citizens were pleased to announce on the night a project which is hoped would lead to the opening of a homelessness day centre in Southall. These issues arose out of a ‘listening campaign’ in which the voices and experiences of hundreds of local people were ascertained and their ideas shared about what needed to be done to improve the borough. The candidates were moved by powerful stories delivered by local people as they challenged them to use their term in office to make a difference to the lives of local people.
This is the third Accountability Assembly organised by West London Citizens member institutions. Previous Assemblies have secured amongst other achievements: a Living Wage for all council staff; the provision of improved waste management (the 'Bin the Rats' campaign); a safer pedestrian crossing in Hanwell. Each assembly has also ensured West London Citizens have regular meetings with the leader of the Council to enable them to keep presenting the issues affecting the lives of members of local institutions in our community.
The event acted as a prelude to the appearance of Minister for Education Michael Gove at the school the following day to open the school.
The asks put to the leaders of the parties at the Assembly in full:
- That, across the term of office of the next administration, Ealing Council moves towards Living Wage (currently £8.80 per hour) in all social care contracts.
- to ensure there is a mandatory minimum training requirement for all carers involved in providing Council-commissioned care
- Provide easier access to advice and support for families / informal carers on how to cope (including financial advice and support on completion of documentation)
- to use the private rented sector to prevent homelessness through the council procuring 600 extra properties over the next five years in accordance with Private Sector Housing Strategy 2014-2019.
- to utilise housing stock in regeneration estate areas to provide assessment beds for processing rough sleepers.
Access for all:
- to ensure that all major pavements in Ealing comply with borough regulations that states 'pavements should not be less uneven by more than 1 inch or 25mm'.
- to ensure that Council inspectors fulfil requirements to check pavements on our high streets and side streets at least once a month and every 3 months respectively.
- to ensure access for all from street to train at all stations in cross rail development except Hanwell, which is a world heritage site.
Safety on buses for young people
- to host and fund an annual event for every school in the borough (to bring 4-6 students) to a one day City Safe workshop / conference
- to host and fund a round table meeting with key Ealing public transport stakeholders: TFL / transport user group / Met. Police / Council (as funder of transport use) regarding a borough-wide safer transport campaign focussing advertising conduct expectations and procedures for reporting incidents
plus a commitment to work with Ealing Citizens over the next four years.