Kate Allen, Chief Executive of Autism at Kingwood, and Victoria Buyer, External Policy Lead at Association for Real Change England (ARC) reflect on the urgent requirement to invest in social care, calls on the sector to support the Better Pay 4 Social Care campaign for the Real Living Wage.
As we stand in November 2020, our minds turn to significant concerns about the fragility of the care market for the remainder of the financial year, and beyond. These most notably have been conveyed by the recent Health and Social Care Select Committee report. One of the main recommendations within this report is for the Government to use the forthcoming spending review to invest an additional £7bn more per year in adult social care by 2023/24.
Yet we know from the detailed funding analysis by the Health Foundation that this is a minimum step towards covering the total care costs within our society. The Health Foundation estimates that to increase the average pay in social care to just 5% above the National Living Wage, while meeting future demand, would cost an extra £3.9bn per year by 2023–24
All settings – including residential and community-based services such as home care – are facing additional pressures due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainties regarding the end of the transition from the EU.
We are also within a market that is made up of charities who operate on a limited profit model as their values often encourage reinvestment within their services.
The latest Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, developed in partnership with the NCVO, Sheffield Hallam University and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, shows that 2 in 5 (39%) of voluntary organisations reported that their financial position had deteriorated in the last month. 1 in 10 (10%) organisations expect they are likely to have stopped operating by this time next year.
These pressures are in addition to long-term concerns about funding and their impact on business continuity. Workforce resilience and retention is foremost in our minds. Many providers consider the risk to service delivery from additional sickness absence and the likelihood that staff – overwhelmed by being at the centre of the national campaign to beat coronavirus – may consider the sector is no longer the career they had anticipated. This is particularly prevalent as they prepare for Christmas by regularly working overtime to treat those they love and themselves.
According to a PSSRU study: 81 per cent of staff highlighted that the amount of time their jobs made them feel tense, uneasy or worried has grown during the coronavirus pandemic. 80% had increased their workload, while over half increased their working hours.
Care work should not be portrayed as an alternative to a job in a supermarket. Yet, retail staff on average earn 24p more an hour than a care worker, raising concerns about the wider issues on pay. There is still little chance of getting sufficient funding to offer a pay increase to social care staff. Despite them literally placing their lives at risk to fulfil their essential care and support roles within our society, there is no additional capacity to reward them.
We believe now is the time that our front-line work force deserve and need more pay. During the pandemic, all social care staff have been incredible – they cancelled their holidays, stayed away from their family and risked their health to care for the vulnerable adults they support. And all for a starting salary of £8.74.
We desperately want to pay our social care staff more, but our pay rates are dictated by the income we receive from local authorities, by whom we are commissioned to support autistic adults
Like many other care providers, our core operation is reliant on local authority income. We hope that by sharing our analysis, we will provide a better understanding of the true cost of support staff.
Care providers like us have held a critical role in keeping the country, and some of its most vulnerable people, safe. We are used to working within extreme financial constraints, and are experts in efficiencies and doing more for less. However, now there can be no less. Years of responding to financial pressures whilst continuing to not only meet needs, but drive up quality, have resulted in there being no fat left to trim – and that includes paying our frontline social care what they deserve.
The United Kingdom Homecare Association regularly reviews the assumptions within publicly funded contracts to create a ‘minimum price’. We wholeheartedly agree that “There is a difference between a minimum price – which covers basic legal requirements – and a fair price – which recognises the value of homecare services to society and provides affair reward for our essential workforce.”
From large umbrella bodies to local care providers, we have come together to launch the Better Pay 4 Social Care campaign. We are urging the UK Government to use the forthcoming Spending Review to increase funding to local authorities to ensure all social care workers receive the minimum of the Real Living Wage (as calculated by the Real Living Wage Foundation. We also understand the demands upon Treasury for the annual uplift to all 5.39m public sector employees, however our social care workforce has never been recognised within these pay scales or able to access meaningful salary progression.
Our ask is that ALL social care workers are paid a minimum of the Real Living Wage of £9.50 per hour (£10.85 in London). Just 20 per cent of our workforce are currently paid the National Living Wage (£8.72 for over 25 year olds) – and one in five care workers under the age of 25 are paid less than this. That means that the proportion of all colleagues paid on or above the Real Living Wage has decreased from 25 per cent in September 2012 to just over 10 per cent in March 2019.
ARC England endorses this vital campaign begun by our member Autism at Kingwood and its Chief Executive, Kate Allen.
#BetterPay4SocialCare: Join ACEVO, Association of Mental Health Providers, Community Integrated Care, Mencap, VODG and others and sign the petition to provide a voice to all those we employ across the sector.
Please help us share this message and work in partnership with each other, setting aside commercial interests for the benefit of the people we all support.