Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Frontline social care workers paid £7,000 less than NHS peers

A new report commissioned by Community Integrated Care has revealed that many social care workers are paid £7,000 less than their equivalents in the NHS and other public funded sectors.

The ‘Unfair to Care’ report is the first of its kind and highlights the extent of a crisis that sees 34% of care workers quit the sector every year.

Social care workers would need a pay increase of 42% to have parity with their NHS peers

The report’s analysis discovered that the average pay for support workers in England who assist people to live independently in the community is £17,695 or £9.05 per hour – 45p per hour below the Real Living Wage.

In comparison, roles with equivalent scope, complexity and accountability within other public funded sectors are, on average, paid at £24,602. 

In the NHS, the gap is even greater with an average take home pay for equivalent jobs paying £25,142, meaning social care workers would need a pay increase of 42% to have parity with their NHS peers. 

The analysis further revealed that the role of social care workers has changed beyond recognition in the past decade, as the sector increasingly supports people with highly complex health and care needs. 

Frontline social care workers were frequently found to support and understand complex medical and behavioural needs, from dementia to acquired brain injuries, having innate and rare personal gifts, and taking an exceptional level of personal accountability. For these reasons, the position was found to be significantly undervalued.

The government must provide an immediate and fair pay rise

The findings undermine the words of Priti Patel, who said social care is a “low skilled” sector, and demonstrates that support workers frequently have the same or a greater level of skill and accountability as professions such as healthcare assistants, police community support officers, and senior teaching assistants. 

The report has led to calls for the Government to provide an immediate and fair pay rise to social care workers and deliver a robust social care sector people plan, which ensures long-term parity of pay with other public funded sectors. 

The report stresses that pay is only part of the solution needed to both fix the employment crisis that is engulfing a sector that has 112,000 vacancies and to extend the societal impact of social care.

Its recommendations include a significant expansion of training and development options, a focus on creating routes to career progression, the introduction of professional registration, campaigns to raise the esteem of the sector, a focus on diversity and inclusion, investment in mental health support, and reward and recognition strategies.

“It is a matter of national shame that social care workers, who provide such an invaluable service to society, are in such desperate circumstances”

Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care, said: “The moral case for investment in social care and its workforce has, sadly, been ignored for years. This research now provides cold hard facts, which surely cannot be ignored by the Government. Our research proves that in other related sectors, many frontline Support Workers would be getting paid at least £6,907 more per year, and almost £7,500 within the NHS. This is immoral, illogical, and cannot be justified.”

“This is a significant challenge, but it can be fixed – firstly, by recognising the £46bn contribution that social care makes to the UK economy annually, and also delivering progressive reforms that improve efficiency and quality of live through delivering joined-up services, reducing the burden on family carers and embracing innovations. All evidence points to overwhelming public support for investment in the sector. This is an issue of strategy and focus, not of possibility.”

“It is a matter of national shame that social care workers, who provide such an invaluable service to society, are in such desperate circumstances. Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, frontline workers have risked their health to protect those who need their support. Most have done so below the poverty line and without the basic safety net of sick pay. This cannot continue.”

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