Action must be taken on pay for social care workers, urges Calderdale council chief

Social care staff must be better paid, have better working conditions and better career progression if a full-blown crisis in the crucial sector is to be avoided, Calderdale councillors heard.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 7:40 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th July 2022, 7:45 am

Calderdale is among boroughs that are already experiencing loss of experienced care staff, including those who work in care homes, to jobs that are better paid with less pressure, and find it difficult to recruit replacements.

When it meets next Monday, July 11, Calderdale Council’s Cabinet is considering a proposal the council invests an additional £1.5 million so that its providers can pay the Real Living Wage from April 2023, which will also hopefully attract more people to work in adult social care.

The council recently reported at the Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board that filling vacant social care posts is a major challenge.

Calderdale Council's Director of Adults Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines,

Scrutiny councillors have heard that while care work is rewarding it is very demanding and because of inflation wages are rising in other sectors, care workers can effectively earn a lot more per hour working in a coffee shop or an Amazon warehouse.

Director of Adults Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, who retires this month after a lifetime working in care having started as a 17-year-old care assistant, said the proposal was an essential starting point to help remedy recruitment and retention problems.

He told councillors: “We do need people to be paid a decent wage.

“It’s really imperative that we understand that people need to be given a decent rate of pay for doing a really complex job.

“Some of the crises that we have in terms of retention, people leaving social care even though they think it’s a really valuable role to play, is because people are paid a lot more to do other things.”

He said recently, because of inflation, he had seen things like Amazon employing packers at £14.50 an hour whereas the National Living Wage for care workers was £9.50 an hour.

“If I can earn £14.50 packing gifts, with more regular shifts and the ability to know when you’re going to get your days off, then that is always going to be more attractive.

“This is more than a local or regional solution – that does need a national investment in funding appropriate adult social care,” he said.

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Members of the council’s Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board heard from Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) who had asked her daughter, who used to work in social care but now did not, what issues were.

Coun Foster said her daughter said the job was incredibly tough with long hours, poor pay, constantly understaffed and staff were constantly called in on days off.

No zero hours contracts, reliable public transport to be able to get to work without having to use taxis to reach some shift start times and costing around two hours’ pay, regular breaks and dedicated time to do paperwork would all help, she said, acknowledging some of these were because managements just did not have the staff.

“None of these are particularly unreasonable, not asking the earth, it’s just making the job actually doable and sustainable, because at the moment the way things are run, everywhere is the same – it’s all short-staffed, there is huge amounts of pressure on everybody,” she said.

Councillors heard better training and career progression was also an important component.

Cabinet member for Adult Services and Wellbeing, Coun Josh Fenton-Glynn (Lab, Calder) stressed that no-one in whatever job should be poorly paid but the skills care work needed had to be recognised.

“At the moment, people who we expect to look after the people we love the most are paid less than the people that are starting in Nando’s – and I don’t think that anyone should be paid poorly.

“But we need to recognise that care work is skilled work, and we need to treat our staff that way – I am really proud that we are going to do so,” he said.

Coun Fenton-Glynn said it was not just care staff who worked with elderly people – half the budget was spent helping care for people with all-age disability.

New Real Living Wage rates are announced annually in November each year.

The current hourly rates are £9.90 across the UK and £11.05 in London – the rate across the UK may increase to around £11 in November, if inflationary rates are applied.