London borough introduces wide-ranging residential care charter

UNISON inspired an initiative that will benefit both care home workers and residents

elderly woman with carer

Southwark Council has agreed a residential care charter that will improve the terms and conditions for all residential care providers in the London borough.

The charter is also intended to drive up standards and lead to better quality of care for the most vulnerable residents within the community.

UNISON today welcomed the move, which was inspired by the union’s own residential care charter, while repeating its call for “a national plan to fix social care pay and set standards”.

Southwark’s charter lays out the council’s expectations regarding high quality care, which it says exceed the current standards set by the Care Quality Commission.

Additionally, it sets out how care home staff in Southwark should be valued and supported in their work:

  • all care home staff will be paid at least the London Living Wage;
  • they will be paid for the time it takes to carry out a proper handover between shifts, ensuring safety and continuity of care for residents;
  • zero-hour contracts will not be used in place of permanent contracts, unless requested by staff;
  • training must be free and carried out in work time.

Councillor Evelyn Akoto, Southwark cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “We want safe, high quality and ethical care for all. Our new charter protects vulnerable residents living in care homes and the remarkable people who have worked tirelessly to keep them safe throughout the pandemic.

“While providing care is often a vocation, this does not mean staff should not be properly rewarded for the important work they do on behalf of us all. I believe that having a better paid, better skilled and well-motivated workforce in our care homes will help ensure residents receive the high quality care they deserve.”

UNISON has endorsed the charter and wants to work closely with the council  to promote its benefits nationally to other local authorities.

Mike Short, the union’s head of local government, said: “It’s good to see Southwark recognising that treating the workforce fairly is a key part of driving up standards in social care. Nobody is pretending this is easy for local councils, but this shows that action can be taken by local authorities to improve social care.

“But councils also need much more help from government,” he added. “There is no national workforce plan in England, and the levels of investment currently being suggested are nowhere near enough.

“We need a national plan to fix social care pay and set standards for both the workforce and the treatment of care recipients.”