Shadow Health Minister Andy Burnham has launched a battle to end abuse of the elderly.
Speaking at Labour’s annual conference, he put improving working conditions for staff involved in caring at the heart of his proposals, as he warned that care workers on minimum wages and zero-hour contracts could not be trusted with the care of older people.
And he spoke of his own sorrow and anger when his own grandmother was robbed of her engagement ring while she lived in a nursing home.
The Labour politician also said elderly people living at home who required support should receive a better service.
He said: “I ask you this - how much longer will we say that people who are so frail that they need help with getting up, washing and eating, and who suffer from loneliness and isolation, are only worth a slap-dash 15 minute visit?
“How much longer will society send out the message to young people looking after someone else’s mum, dad, brother or sister that it is the lowest form of work, lower than the minimum wage because it doesn’t pay the travel time between the 15 minute visits?
“How much longer will we see these shameful scenes from care homes on our TV screens of people being shouted at or abused and not say enough is enough?”
He told activists that his own grandmother was regularly stolen from as she lived in a nursing home.
“The decent people who worked there were let down by the anonymous owners who filled it with untrained, temporary staff.
“My gran’s things often went missing and we had got used to that.
“But I will never forget the day when we walked in to see her and her knuckle was red raw where her engagement ring had been ripped off.
“Right there, right then - I made it my mission to end this scandal.”
A Labour government would strengthen the NHS and make social care a key part of the NHS’s functions, so that it became a respected and reasonably-paid job he said.
Mr Burnham warned: “A minimum wage, zero hours approach will never secure the care they want for their mum and dad” - but under Labour, caring would be “no longer a dead-end job but part of one workforce working to NHS standards”.
The Shadow Health Secretary also promised more support for people who cared for relatives, including funding to allow them to take a break, the right to ask for an annual health check and help with hospital car parking.