Age UK has called for improved pay and conditions for care workers, after a report reveals they still earn 24p less an hour than shop assistants.
The report by the charity warns care workers have often had to put their own health and financial worries at the bottom of the pile, while battling to keep Covid-19 at bay and their clients safe and well.
In particular, it claims that many care workers are left struggling to make ends meet, with the average salary for a care worker being only around £15,000 – about half the UK average.
This means care workers are paid 24p less an hour than shop assistants, despite the vital nature of their role and the skill required to help people with complex needs.
It also adds that despite being roughly equivalent in size to the NHS workforce, the UK’s 1.65m strong care workforce, has seen only relatively limited support put in place.
The charity has called on the government to do more to recognise their enormous contribution by improving their salaries so they are the same as those for people doing the equivalent job in the NHS, and by supporting their physical and mental wellbeing.
‘The lack of government funding for care often translates into exploitative working conditions for care staff, which in turn undermine the quality of care on offer to older and disabled people,’ said Age UK charity director, Caroline Abrahams.
‘Social care is above all a people business and if you don’t value the men and women who provide it you are undervaluing those who receive it too.”
‘For the sake of everyone who needs social care as well as all those who deliver it we are calling on the Government to treat care workers fairly and provide the funding for them to get a decent wage. Their pay and conditions need levelling up to match those of similar roles in the NHS,’ she added.
It report comes after the Future Social Care Coalition called for a major funding package and a fair wage deal for low-paid staff.
Commentating on the Age UK report, Unison’s assistant general secretary and co-chair of the Future Social Care Coalition, Christina McAnea said care staff cannot go on ‘being ignored, undervalued and left to exist on poverty’.
‘A wage boost is needed now to get them through the pandemic and attract new recruits,’ said Ms McAnea.
‘A national care service would also bring about long overdue reform of the sector. It would drive up standards, boost pay and training and ensure the care service is put on an equal footing with the NHS.’
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