Thousands of care workers pay below living wage despite promises — The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (en-GB)

Home care workers across Britain are working for less than the actual living wage, despite many councils pledging to pay at least that much, according to new research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Long-awaited plans to reform adult welfare have failed to materialize, while the pandemic has increased pressure on the system. The government has no clear plan on how to close a huge funding gap – estimated at £10billion – but has encouraged the public to Clap For Our Carers, a response one carer called a pathetic.

According to a poll by the Fawcett Society, most people in the UK think home care aides should be paid the actual living wage – an amount meant to cover bills and living costs with some cash set aside for emergencies, such as urgent dental care. Yet the Office can reveal that more than 60% of carer jobs advertised in the last six months have been paid less than this – a figure that equates to more than 7,000 jobs across Britain.

The rate was even higher in Wales, where nearly three-quarters of all social worker jobs were below the actual living wage, despite the Welsh government recently promised that all social workers would be paid at this rate.

Most home care is paid for at least in part by local councils, and 43 local authorities have signed a charter pledging to pay their social workers actual living wages. But the Office found jobs advertised for less than that in 37 of those areas, with some offering as little as £8 an hour, less than minimum wage for over-21s.

Caregivers said low pay for grueling work left many struggling to feed and clothe their families, caused mental and physical health issues and prompted many to consider leaving their jobs. A carer told the Office: ‘The only way to cover your living expenses in this profession is to sacrifice your own health and your family to work ridiculous hours.

Responding to our findings, Health Minister Sajid Javid said: “Our carers have done an absolutely outstanding job, especially during this pandemic… I would like to see a fairer settlement for carers, and that is part of our plan on social care for a longer term durable solution. However, when prompted, he would not say how the additional funds needed would be found.

Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party who was herself a worker before becoming an MP, said: ‘It is a national disgrace that the vast majority of care workers are paid less than living wage… The Prime Minister we promised a plan to fix social care.He needs to put his money where his mouth is and start treating our social care heroes with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Michael A. Bynum