It’s time to give more value (and pay) to care workers and cleaners 

I actually wrote this post before the covid-19 pandemic, but it feels more relevant than ever. Clapping is all very well, but shouldn’t we be paying them more?  

I heard that there are moves to pay NHS workers more, but many (possibly most) care workers and cleaners are employed by agencies or are self-employed.  

Covid-19 has actually brought to people’s attention the valuable work of carers and the risks they take. Evidently cleaning, too, has a greater importance in a pandemic, especially cleaning of care homes and hospitals with anti-viral products. But these workers are valuable all the time, not just in a pandemic.  

Nearly everyone needs a cleaner or care worker at some point in their lives 

It’s not much fun to think about, but usually in old age, if not before, we all need help.  So, everyone should be interested in the quality of care and cleaning that is available for selfish reasons if nothing else.  

carer and patient at seadisde-bruno-aguirre-unsplash
Image by Bruno Aguirre from Unsplash

Cleaning and caring aren’t really unskilled 

A general excuse for low wages for cleaners and carers is that it is unskilled. To be honest, I don’t think many people who’ve used a range of cleaners and carers would agree. Almost anyone can have a go at cleaning or care work, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be any good. A good cleaner knows how to listen well to the client’s wishes, to work efficiently, not be too clumsy and use products and tools of the trade well. Inexperienced cleaners often use products inappropriately, break things and don’t leave the house clean and looking good. Cleaners with poor English/interpersonal skills don’t follow your instructions and can be really frustrating. As for carersa good carer has a pleasant and kind manner, follows instructions well (using at least a reasonable level of intelligence and common sense) and has a gentle touch. Both need to be reliable and punctual. I imagine au pairs and childcare workers are another group that is often seen as unskilled but surely looking after someone’s children is a very important job indeed?  

I think it would be a good idea for there to be NVQs or other qualifications in cleaning because I really don’t think anyone can do it just like that and it would help identify the committed ones and give the vocation more status. NVQs could also be used more regularly when hiring care workers, whereas currently usually no qualification is required [1].  

The current situation is that a large number of cleaners and carers are not committed to their work, don’t feel valued, don’t do a good job and are only doing it temporarily. Clients are therefore often frustrated and having to regularly hire new ones as workers move on or are no good. Some people even give up and end up doing the cleaning themselves because they couldn’t find anyone good, or go without the homecare they need.  

gumpy cleaner-pixabay
Many cleaners are not happy with the conditions and are only in the role temporarily, which isn’t good for either party. Image by pezezzle from Pixabay

Caring for the vulnerable is really important, and not easy 

Everyone gets old. And very often when you get old, you need some help. The last thing anyone wants when they’re vulnerable and having to accept help is uncaring, unreliable, rough, lazy or rushed carers. We should be valuing care workers more than bankers, lawyers, builders, software developers, accountants, TV producers and reality TV stars. Care workers are helping people with their most vital needs – eating, dressing, washing, leaving the house… And yet councils are only willing to pay care agencies around £16 an hour to do this, which often means the care workers get paid around minimum wage once you factor in travel time between service users and petrol [1].   

I’m not a care worker myself but I imagine looking after service users who might have dementia or a complex physical or mental disability can be challenging and require training as well as a calm, patient, caring nature and good problem-solving skills. And then there’s end-of-life care, which obviously requires emotional resilience as well.  

Bad care can even result in death of a client in the worst-case scenario.  

Calling care work unskilled is nothing more than an excuse to continue underpaying the care workers.   

Tough working conditions 

I was quite horrified to learn that care workers in one of the major care firms in my area regularly work from around 7am to 11pm, having to be at work again at 7am the next day, often working 50+ hours a week. In addition to this, they are often not given enough time to travel between clients and rotas are often supplied only the night before, and often changed at the last minute. Some are on zero-hour contracts. Empty time between clients, even if it’s just half hours here and there that you can’t really use for anything, are unpaid. I honestly don’t know how people cope with this kind of working pattern, and am not surprised most seem to aspire to changing their career path. Fortunately not all care companies operate like this, but it seems quite common in care companies that are used by the council, no doubt partly due to the hourly rate limit being too low.  

And personal care (e.g. dealing with toilet needs) isn’t always the most enjoyable task, and surely should deserve extra pay and credit. 

As for cleaners, those working in offices, hospitals and nightclubs are often required to work extremely antisocial hours, such as the very early morning, and should be recognised for this in their pay and conditions.  

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Cleaning and care work can be physically and mentally very hard work. Image from Pixabay

Workers who aren’t valued generally don’t value their jobs 

As a result of this, care workers and cleaners are usually only doing the job temporarily. This causes inconsistency for clients and the constant need for care agencies/individuals to be recruiting and training new staff. It makes me sad that care workers and cleaners often want to start a retail business or get an office job because they don’t feel valued or adequately paid in their current positions.  

Time for a change! 

Let’s celebrate our care workers and cleaners, pay them more, be fussy about their skills and experience, and create more efficiency, safety and fulfilment for everyone! 

line of speedy cleaners adli-wahid-unsplash
Feel like this photo celebrates cleaners as they look epic – nice work Adli Wahid on Unsplash!

What can I do? 

If you hire a cleaner or care worker, pay them as much as you can afford and not as much as you can get away with (if they are self-employed, bear in mind that about half of their hourly rate might go on expenses/holiday/sick pay/NI and tax/travel time and unwanted breaks between jobs). 

Contact your local MP about the issue – if you don’t have much time, maybe just tweet or email them this post!  

Sign and share this petition: 

Be prepared to pay more tax to fund better pay for council-funded care 

If you have a friend or acquaintance doing one of these jobs, you can always do your best to make them know you think it’s an important and skilled job to have. 

 I would love to hear your thoughts!  

cleaner waving-mop over-=head-pixabay
Image from Pixabay


[1] Based on the adverts regularly featured in my local paper by various care companies 

[2] and and 

Are they exaggerating their disability and, if so, why?

A system that is designed to eliminate fraud but has unwanted effects

These days the conditions for getting disability benefits and a blue badge are so extreme that many people who are genuinely in need and should be eligible are finding it difficult to qualify. There have also been many instances of the assessors deliberately lying or trying to catch out participants [2]. For me, hearing about this has definitely made me quite anxious about assessments, especially because I look fine. I can be totally exhausted and in extreme pain but I’m young and not naturally very expressive and you really can’t see it just by looking at me. You might see it if you know me and you’re looking with a sympathetic eye, but if you’re looking to fill quotas and save the government money, you could easily decide I look totally normal. Many people going through the process of applying for benefits are aware of the instances where assessors have disregarded what they have said instead commenting on how they looked and other superficial observations [1]. Unfortunately for many young people with severe degrees of conditions such as ME/CFS, MS, EDS, Fibromyalgia and so on, they feel a pressure to demonstrate their disability by walking in more agonised way, turning up at the assessment in pyjamas, using a stick etc. Something the majority of people don’t know is that pain is often delayed, so even if someone isn’t looking agonised now, they may feel it later. I’ve noticed that there has been some adjustment to the application forms to cater a bit more for fluctuating conditions and invisible illness but there’s still some way to go. It’s unfortunate that the very honest people who don’t exaggerate their condition at the assessment are possibly more likely to lose out than the (rare) people who are actually fine and made the whole thing up, and who are probably seasoned actors. Every time I have an assessment (and there seem to be many! Plenty of bureaucracy for the sick!) I do feel a pressure to look ill and in pain (which I often am), but at the same time I worry they’ll see me at another moment looking well and think I’m faking the whole thing! It’s a minefield!

How useful it would be if pain was visible! Unfortunately, it’s not. Photo from Pixabay.


A topic that’s hard to discuss

Another reason I feel like people think I’m faking it is because I rarely talk about how my condition affects me. It’s quite hard to fit into conversation sometimes, people rarely ask and it’s inevitably awkward, as you feel like you’re fishing for sympathy, and sometimes you get pity, or, alternatively, disbelief, which can be quite depressing/upsetting. But I know I need to discuss it more, because it’s just not something people know about, and I’m doing all these ‘odd’ things like sometimes using a stick/wheelchair and other times looking like I walk fine.

Mental ill-health

I think this is also an area that can really confuse people. I’ve found myself thinking ‘so-and-so is always laughing so he can’t be depressed’, and I’m sure that’s not the right way to look at it! I also knew a guy who stayed up all night before his assessment so he’d look ‘more obviously depressed’ by being dishevelled.

anxious looking girl
Those with mental health problems also feel pressure to conform to stereotypical images of anxiety and depression. Image by Pezibear from Pixabay.

What can we do about the situation?

If you have a hidden disability:

  • Try to talk about it more – it’s hard, but I know I need to do this
  • Share this post with people, or similar posts
  • Challenge any suspicions you may have about other people

If you don’t have one:

  • Challenge your suspicions and try not to be as judgmental as we are encouraged to be
  • If you find out someone you know has an invisible illness, say something like ‘I’m interested how the condition affects you, if you don’t mind sharing, so that way I can be more considerate about it’ – they’ll love you forever! And a lot more things will make sense. Do bear in mind they may only give you an edited version though, as actually detailing all the effects could take a long time for some people!
  • Feel free to ask questions such as ‘how does it feel when you walk too much?’ – but make sure your tone is not suspicious or judgmental! Most people with invisible illnesses feel very judged already.
  • Try not to expect people to look how they feel, and try not to assume it’s much worse to be physically unable to do something than to be able but only with significant negative effects.
  • Try to read some or all of the blog posts in your feed about invisible conditions so you learn more.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? Comment below!

If you found this post interesting, you might also like other posts on disability issues:

Feeling like a disability fake even when you’re not

Government finally reveals that more than 4000 died within six weeks of being deemed fit for work 

Reflections on asking for help

Tips on managing chronic pain

Re-examining ‘fear of movement’ in chronic pain patients

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role

We’ve got to stop pretending disability doesn’t exist

Chronic pain: an unrecognised taboo



[2] and and and

Feeling like a disability fake even when you’re not: judgments and dilemmas

It feels like an absolute minefield having an invisible disability. At first I didn’t much care how people might view me. I’d never been very bothered about anyone’s opinions on my quirks, at least not since being a teenager. So when I had to start making adaptions to my life to not be in hellish pain and deathly exhaustion all of the time, I did, and anyone who found it odd could think whatever they wished. Not anymore though. Now I’m more ill, receiving disability benefits because I’m too ill to work (any offers of work that involve the equivalent of writing a blog post per month, in small segments, are most welcome via the contact page!). And every day I feel like people are thinking I’m faking it, and might even report me to the Department of Work and Pensions.

The black and white ‘can or can’t you?’ perspective

People generally see disability in very black and white perspectives, with no shades of grey. I wrote more on this in a previous post so I’m not going to go on about it here, but basically people do not expect wheelchair users to get up, even though many use a wheelchair because they can’t walk all the time or walking too far brings on a lot of pain and exhaustion that goes way beyond how a normal person feels after going for a hike. This can also be called the ‘can you or can’t you?’ perspective. Can you walk, or can’t you? Can you get out of bed, or can’t you? Society finds it relatively easy to understand people who find it physically impossible or extremely difficult to do something, such as climb up some steps, or cut up food; people who can’t lift their arms or legs into usual positions, or look extremely unsteady. It hasn’t really yet got its head around people who can sometimes do those things fine, and other times struggle, or who can do things, but will be exhausted or in agony for the rest of the day.

Photo by Image by Adreas16057 on Pixabay. The caption was ‘Wheelchair Abandoned’ – I wonder if it belongs to an intermittent wheelchair user who’s gone for a dip in the sea or a walk on the beach. 

Why do people struggle to understand invisible illness?

I think in many ways it’s just part of our collective consciousness. It’s easier to compute when someone clearly can’t do something than when they say it’s a problem for them. And, unfortunately, our collective consciousness is also very much on the alert for benefit cheats. When I see someone get up from a wheelchair and walk, I think it too, even though I do that too! I immediately challenge the assumption, but it was there. I think this comes from:

  • The media obsession with benefit cheats
  • A very British grin-and-bear-it attitude where self-care is not viewed as positively as forcing through pain and exhaustion
  • The dissatisfaction many of us have with our jobs and envy of anyone who might not have to work, especially if we think they might not really be that disabled
  • The undeniable existence of laziness and the fact that some people might just want a blue badge for selfish reasons, for example, but I think these people are quite rare. But as we’ve all experienced laziness on occasion, some more than others, maybe it’s easier for a fairly healthy person to imagine laziness than chronic illness?
DSCF1032 - Copy
Sometimes as a disabled person it can feel like there is a huge amount of judgment going on all the time, which makes the world feel quite a hostile place. 


You know when you feel the security guard is watching you, and suddenly you feel really shifty? It’s a lot like that. I feel like I’m tying myself in knots sometimes. Having grown aware of the black and white mentality about disability, I sometimes do things to signal my invisible disability, such as walking with a stick. I don’t really need the stick, but it signals to people in a visual way that I have a mobility issue. In the past, people often walked far too fast, or never gave up a seat for me when I needed it, or even asked me to vacate my seat, or made comments about it being lazy to use the lift. I suppose I could have gone into long conversations about my invisible condition, but the stick is a shorthand, and prevents these awkward conversations. On the other hand, some people might see that I don’t massively need it, and it must be very odd to my housemates that I only use it to go out.

I’m not a fraud – I genuinely get extreme levels of pain from walking, which keep me up at night and leave me exhausted the next day. I do need to manage how much walking I do in order for me not to turn into a zombie – a pained, irritable, mindless zombie. But people expect those with mobility problems to walk like a very old person might walk: laboriously, unsteadily, looking agonized. Some people end up putting that on, because it’s what people expect, and you’re much less likely to be believed worthy of disability benefits or a blue badge if you walk completely normally and they just have to take your word for it that you do need to manage how much you walk. I usually get my GP and friends to write letters about how my disability affects me and even to mention the fact it’s an invisible illness in order to prepare people assessing me.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this! Comment below! Also keep a lookout for Part 2: coming soon. Take care! x

Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role — Scope’s Blog

After graduating from university, Lauren embarked on a long and difficult journey to find a job. In support of our new campaign, Work With Me, she spoke to us about the barriers she faced and gives some advice to disabled people who are still searching for a job. When I graduated with a good degree and […]

via Don’t focus on my impairment, ask me what I can bring to the role — Scope’s Blog