Northern Ireland

Home care: MS patient calls for carers to be 'valued, rewarded and respected'

Carer Charlene McCoy gives a cup of tea to her patient Martin Harney
Image caption Martin Harney's carers have to wash, dress and feed him in a 15-minute visit

A man with multiple sclerosis (MS) who requires almost 24-hour care has said he "can't exist" without the help of care assistants and has called for them to be given more reward for their work.

Martin Harney said he was finding it increasingly difficult to find carers as those who do the job are leaving the profession due to low pay.

He said carers' 15-minute home calls were putting pressure on them and him.

Independent care providers have warned that they are struggling to cope.

Rising costs, including the recently introduced National Living Wage, means some companies are struggling to stay afloat, the Independent Health and Care Providers has said.

Respect

Northern Ireland's health trusts pay the care provider companies an average of £12 an hour.

From that, the providers pay carers' wages and other costs, such as national insurance, pension contributions and petrol allowance.

Image caption Martin Harney said carers do not get the satisfaction or reward they deserve

But Mr Harney said he did not believe a value could be put on the care he receives.

"It's my life. I can't exist without it. I need people with me all the time," he said.

"At the minute I'm finding it very hard to find carers because those who wanted to do the job were not getting the respect and pay the needed.

"The carer people don't get the satisfaction or the reward that they deserve."

Tough

He receives 15-minute visits from his carers, and during that time they have to wash, dress and feed him, as well as give him medication.

He said that is not enough time those tasks to be carried out.

Charlene McCoy, who is Mr Harney's care assistant, said that while she loves her job it can be "extremely tough".

Image caption Charlene McCoy said if pay for her work was not increased she could have to look for another career

"The fact you have to try and squeeze so many duties to be able to give the right level of care at all times to that client within 15 minutes is extremely difficult," Ms McCoy said.

"I'm committed to my clients, I like to speak to them on a personal, human level rather than rush in and out of calls."

Commitments

She said that she wants to remain in the job but the level of pay she receives leaves her in a difficult position.

"Unfortunately, the minimum wage attachment to this just does not place the value that I have personally to the role," she said.

"I have personal financial commitments to keep up.

"If we don't raise the wage for this, the likes of myself will be forced to look elsewhere.

"People have to leave a career that they are so passionate about just so they can continue to look after themselves."

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