A DEDICATED carer told of her ‘heartbreak’ of being on the picket line as a second day of strike action got underway in West Dunbartonshire.

Caroline Friel, a home care worker at West Dunbartonshire Council (WDC), was one of many to walk out on Thursday morning as part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

It comes after strikes were held outside of Clydebank Health Centre and WDC’s headquarters in Dumbarton on Wednesday.

Caroline told the Reporter that she didn’t want to be out protesting but that “enough is enough”.

Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter: She said: “I’ve worked as a carer for fifteen years and my job is not what it used to be, it’s completely different.

“We are not just sitting making cups of tea or befriending people. We are dealing with people who have complex care needs and who wouldn’t be able to stay at home if it wasn’t for the support we give them.”

GMB Scotland said that it had received ‘overwhelming’ support from members to take industrial action after a grading review – carried out by WDC’s health and social care partnership -  reportedly failed to reflect their increased responsibilities.

Home carers at WDC are reportedly paid grade-four wages, as based on the local authority’s job evaluation scheme.

Caroline added: “The recent job evaluation had a couple of points where we scored very, very low. Communication was one of them.

“The biggest part of our job is communicating. We have clients who have Alzheimer’s, complex mental health needs, are non-verbal, and have had strokes so we are constantly having to find different ways of communicating with them.

“A lot of our clients don’t have anyone else. We don’t want to be here and not be able to give them care but enough is enough.

“We’re responsible for every part of their care and we need to be their voice. We will feel valued with an evaluation that is actually fair to what we’re doing.”

Staff are calling on the council to move them to pay grade five.

Ahead of the strikes, the trade union said it did not believe that the recent review recognised the skills and experience of staff and failed to properly assess their new responsibilities of delivering care and support.

John Semple, another home care worker, told our reporter he feels undervalued.

He said: “Carers have been fighting for this for years but we’ve always been undervalued by the council. It’s not just for us but it’s for our clients as well.

“We do everything for our clients, we’re their first port of call, and we might be the only person that they see so that’s why we’re out on strike.

“We did it [provided care] throughout the pandemic. We’re the fourth emergency service but we’re not recognised for it and we’re the backbone of care.

“The council needs to get round the table and start to talk because none of us like to be out on strike.

“With the cost-of-living crisis, some carers are struggling to pay bills. We’re only fighting for what we deserve.”

A spokesperson for West Dunbartonshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “We are committed to fair pay for home carers and following a thorough and robust job evaluation process the pay of a typical home carer has recently risen by at least £2500 per annum through regrading of the role.

“We continue to work with trade union representatives and while we expect disruption to our service during this industrial action, we are doing all we can to minimise this for service users.”