In 2011, North London Citizens ran its first Listening Campaign. Teams of trained volunteer leaders had face to face conversations with thousands of people in and around their community. We heard story after story of people who were worried, frustrated and angry about the poor quality care that their parents or neighbours were receiving. Michele Simmons from Finchley Reform Synagogue had a story that was perhaps the most moving. When Michele told this at a Delegates Assembly of 200 people from across North London Citizens, social care was voted as a priority campaign.
We built an action team of 15 volunteer leaders and did some research speaking to care providers, commissioners and experts. It was clear that there was a lot of blame going on: care recipient families blaming care workers, care workers blaming the providers, providers blaming the commissioners and commissioners blaming the Government.
But from our Living Wage campaign, where for a decade we have been supporting hardworking low paid people to get the dignity and pay they deserve, we realised that our campaign for better quality social care could not be about blame. We recognised that for people to receive quality care, the care workers themselves need to be valued and treated well.
Barbara Nalumu, a home care worker and member of St Jude's church in Croydon, told her story of working 15 hours a day, effectively being paid less than the National Minimum Wage because there was no pay for travel time. She would choose to stay on longer with her clients, longer than the 15 minutes that she was being paid for, in order to have a conversation and treat them with respect.
Through our research and speaking to recipients, care workers, providers and commissioners, we developed a Social Care Charter spelling out the basic standards that would enable quality for the recipient and dignity for the worker. These standards are not ground-breaking and there are plenty of reports out there. But what we are building is a movement, where recipients, care workers, providers and commissioners can work together to bring about the social care system we all want to see.