LOW paid care workers are at "breaking point"over gruelling 70 hour weeks and chaotic shift patterns.

Home carers in Glasgow say they are being turned into "zombies" by their work patterns, which see them start at 8am and finish at 10pm seven days a week, with a week off.

The shifts, which were brought in four years ago, caused havoc at the time but were intended to provide greater continuity of care for clients.

In reality, staff say, mistakes are being made "regularly", with elderly and disabled clients not receiving the care they deserve.

For the first time the effects of the intensive working patterns have been examined long-term, with data obtained by a trade union showing rising absence levels and an increase in agency and overtime spending.

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Staff and their trade union Unison are demanding that Glasgow city council, which now directly employs the home carers, re-examine the controversial shifts.

Glasgow Times:

It comes after the council’s arm’s length external organisation (ALEO) Cordia was dismantled last year and hundreds of home carers were transferred back under the council’s social work department.

The union says that despite equal pay being settled, the predominantly female workers in home care are still being unfairly treated as no other employees are subject to the same shift regimes or mandatory break times.

While some staff have welcomed the shifts, others say it has cost them their relationships, their mental health has suffered and some have reported developing eating disorders. A survey carried out by the union found that 70% of members reported their health and relationships had got worse with the shift patterns, while 53% said their ability to do their job properly had also got worse.

READ MORE: Glasgow council offers more funds to care for loved ones

In the survey, the majority of union members told how they have been left exhausted, unable to function or had their mental health ruined by the rotas, while others described themselves as “zombies” by the end of the seven days.

A minority said they enjoyed having a full week off, with some saying it gave them extra time to spend with their families when they weren’t working, or gave them the ability to help out with grandchildren.

Those working full time work from 8am to 1.30pm, with a half an hour unpaid break. Their second shift starts at 4.30pm, until 10pm, with another half hour break. While some employees have a car, most travel on foot between clients, regardless of weather conditions or time of year. Some employees say they walk up to 10 miles a day while at work.

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