Conscript Carers

mid lin

On Wednesday, the Dundee Courier published a desperate plea for volunteers from Mid-Lin Day Care Centre, which provides activities for vulnerable elderly people, including those with dementia. The article admitted that the centre is almost entirely run by volunteers. What it omitted to mention is that many of these ‘volunteers’ are actually unemployed folk, conscripted under various workfare schemes. Some are forced to work there for no pay for six months – 2 ½ times the length of the maximum community service punishment. If they refuse they can face thirteen weeks with no benefits.

Some old people can be quite uninhibited in letting off their frustrations and making personal comments; for the ‘volunteers’, being sworn at and receiving criticism is part of the ‘job’. And some of the centre’s users are incontinent, so ‘volunteers’ have to clear up the occasional accident. ‘Volunteers’ also take people to the toilet. And despite the intimacy of such tasks, we have been informed that the centre has told people not to worry about the lack of PVG disclosures. In the Courier article the centre manager describes volunteering as ‘great work experience’, but people we have spoken to complain that nothing was offered by way of training. They were even expected to pay for the lunch that ‘volunteers’ had helped prepare.

We know that Mid-Lin provides a vital service for its users, but at what cost – beyond the £18 a day charge? Their website states that they aim to promote ‘dignity’ and ‘choice’ for their users, but what about the unemployed who have no choice but to suffer the indignity of working for nothing. This is the reality of Cameron’s Big Society: a shoestring community service that only survives through a combination of charity and gross exploitation.

We have written three times to Mid-Lin asking them to reconsider their use of forced labour. They have not dignified us with an answer; but we can assure them that so long as they continue with this exploitation we will take every opportunity to let people know what is really going on behind that fence.

6 thoughts on “Conscript Carers

  1. Reblogged this on campertess and commented:
    If they need to pay for food & possibly travel? They won’t have any money left to live on, which doesn’t seem to bother these companies or the government. There must be rules & regulations about preparing food? Dealing with people in an intimate way? So are these volunteers trained?


  2. This is horrifying and needs to be looked into immediately. No-one can actually touch the elderly without there being members of employed staff who are trained to toilet, lift and change them.
    Food preparation should be done in sterile or extremely clean rooms and staff again, should be trained.
    I feel so very sorry for the elderly, but they are being used in a dreadful way to keep people off the unemployment register, for forced labour and I doubt very much if they knew that people where being forced to look after them that they would screech it from the rooftops, (or at least be complaining to their local Councillors/MSP’s.
    Dreadful, absolutely dreadful.


  3. I would like to say that as an ex volunteer who dedicated a lot of time through choice that the volunteers are amazing people and YES they get lots of training. Many go onto permanent employment and that is mainly due to the certificates they gain. The confidence some volunteers build is amazing. As for lunch…it costs one pound !!!!! And it’s quality food. Support this ageing population rather than bad mouth it.


    1. We have no problem with the elderly people who use the centre – which we know is busy and popular – or about genuine volunteers. Our concern is with people being forced to work for nothing. Unsurprisingly many people find that being treated in that way is demeaning rather than confidence building. A lot of unemployed people don’t lack skills and experience, just the possibility of doing paid work.
      We don’t want to live in a society where people are expected to work for nothing to earn the right to get a job.


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