Lost in Live-in Care Work

Untold stories of racism, discrimination, abuse and humiliation of BAME live-in care workers

Is the over-emphasis of BAME communities being the worst affected, hit and killed by COVID-19 creating other problems that many of us do not realise or think to be that important?

Such things as tensions in workplaces, tensions between front line workers and their clients. In some cases saying tension is putting it lightly because fear is there and is real.

The outrage that resulted from the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minnesota spread across the world including here in the UK. This is impacting the working relationships on the frontlines especially the community frontline workgroup where many are lone workers working with individuals or families in their homes.

This area of work includes domiciliary and live-in care workers who have hardly been acknowledged such that the government can put safety measures in place. Lone work already has its own risks and the present situation has not helped the matter. Yet we have hardly heard mention of the increased risk or even just the acknowledgement of the work we do as life preservers and rescuers if not life savers in more cases than many even know about. 

We have rarely heard mention of the domiciliary and live-in frontline workers, yet the risks and impact are the same all round if not worse in this area as this group/community of lone workers. It is worth noting that for the BAME community, that label in itself raises issues on top of the baseline problems stated above.

In fact, one might think the impact might have been worsened for this sector because workers are walking into individual homes on their own where they have no clue how individuals (migrants) with clients being mostly the British (hosting community) are responding to the unrest that has been rising in public areas.

Examples include the demonstrations and pulling down of statues and all the other responsive activities that have come out of these activities. These activities are being manipulated by media and the policing bodies to make the BAME community appear as violent and aggressive, without acknowledging what these activities signify in the positive manner that they are intended which is to instigate appropriate change.

As awareness mounts, tensions are rising as well which increases the risk of altercations such as one seen in Brixton when a fight broke between police and the public that was having a peaceful street party. Many people are now operating in defense mode and it is not a good mode to be operating from. Let’s picture it this way, when a dog is cornered, it bites right?

As one that also works in the front line, recently gone back to work I have found that tension has risen higher than when I was last working in the same field three years ago. Yes, tensions have been there time immemorial and I had become accustomed to working in defense mode which many call ‘the cover your back mode’ because it appeared that when a BAME worker makes a mistake or does something wrong the situation got a biased response that led to consequences of the highest degree and the highest possible punishment. This has been highlighted by some of the people interviewed after the fight that broke in Brixton.

Having returned to work through a pathway that I believe serves me well considering physical health constraints, I have started working in the community with individuals and families and my observation has been that even those that are not racist are now very uncomfortable and do not know how to behave, how to talk to and receive us the B.A.M.E group of workers into their homes.

Either you see them being overly nice or defensive and even at times just very uncomfortable. It was heartbreaking to watch one client look so scared and petrified when I walked into her house one day, she actually called out to my colleague every time she went into another room asking, ‘Am I staying behind all day with this lady?’ This lady was quite frail and seeing her flinch each time I moved made me so self-conscious and very aware that I am black and so considered to be a violent person which I am not. The worst thing is my co-worker who was handing over to me did absolutely nothing, said nothing each time the client threw this question to her. She just carried on as if deaf to the client but I could see her own discomfort in this situation. This means that everyone in the room was in discomfort.

The question here is how does one cope with this kind of outcome and at the same time how does the same person reassure their client that they are not at all what is assumed because of the misrepresentation by the media and by the small numbers that are acting out of anger out there.

Am I the only one noticing the contradictions of the powers that be are presenting to society with their incongruent statements and notions. For example when we are painted as the weaker race that catches the virus easily, easily die from it,  thus have the higher capacity to spread it just as easily and yet we get pushed to be the ones that save the lives of the stronger race, working in the frontline.

The unfortunate thing is that very few realised the harsh reality that the stigma that has been instilled during this pandemic season will live on beyond the pandemic if not addressed so that our BAME community will always been viewed as inferior, ‘THE INFERIORS THAT SAVED AND SERVED SO MANY LIVES’ during the COVID-19 season. Needless to say other crisis and pandemics will come and go with us being treated the same way.

Something has got to change.

By Farisai J Dzemwa

This article represents the personal views of Farisai J Dzemwa not those of the The Equality Trust.

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