My manager Si holds his shoulders high when we return to the office. Today we assessed a man whose mother wants him out. Disabled or not, she said, it’s strange for my son to still live here, and he’s started locking me in the bathroom. Si will offer the son a placement with us. It’s my job to email the social worker.
‘Offering the basic package?’ I ask. Si smiles, nods. I’ve watched Si work his way up to Care Home Manager from shifts on the floor. We’re talking twenty-seven-hour stretches on less than minimum wage, after tax. Si always smoked on our breaks together but blew it in the other direction. Under-supported and overtired, Si was kicked by people he cared for, spat at, squared up to, and punched in the lip. Now he’s a dad he has given up smoking, but sometimes I notice him, sitting in his car, breathing slowly, holding his fingers to his lips.
Sundays are tough. Staff contact him through the night, so he always needs naps. Teresa wants to change the rota again. Jamil needs another body on the floor with him in Clapham.
Mondays? Sometimes he’s too busy to go to the toilet. He needs a cappuccino in the morning. Needs a Caribbean lunch. But if there’s someone without, he’ll give it all up. He’s a mat, a wall, a net…
The government makes healthcare cuts every quarter, and Si is always crunching the numbers. I stay on, make a brew, and get out my calculator. I’m saving for a flat and nagging for the London Living Wage. ‘It would have to come out of my own pocket,’ Si replies, and I watch him contemplate.
Eva Hibbs is a fiction writer, living in southeast London. After her experience working in the care sector, she writes about social issues in the UK and beyond. She’s currently working on a novel about the experience of a non-binary person and their best friend, an advocate for the rights of young people.