Social care funding must go to the front line

UNISON has urged all councillors to boost care pay

Councils must ensure funding earmarked to tackle workforce shortages in social care reaches staff pay packets, says UNISON today (​Friday).

The union has written to ​more than 16,500 ​councillor​s in England ​urging them to ensure that ​local care workers receive their share of millions of pounds ​of short-term funding pledged by the government.

More than 2,800 care staff across the country have also emailed ​local politicians calling for support to get what they are owed.

In December, ministers announced a £462.5m workforce retention and recruitment fund​ in response to the staffing crisis facing the sector.

The cash – for bonuses, overtime and bringing forward planned pay rises for care staff – can be accessed by local ​authorities until the end of March.

However, UNISON says money from other government initiatives didn’t always reach the pay packets of all the staff for whom it was intended.

​The union cites cash from the ​adult ​social ​care ​infection ​control ​fund, which was supposed to cover wages for self-isolating care workers. The union published evidence last June showing some care workers simply weren’t getting the cash.*

The ​UNISON letter warns this must not happen ​with the new funding and asks what steps councils are taking to ‘reward the local social care workforce’.

It says care staff ‘deserve any opportunity available’ to help increase their pay​ and that it’s only with improved wages that ‘the staffing problems besetting the sector can start to be addressed’.

The letter continues: “UNISON has been pushing hard to get a boost in care worker pay, and ministers ​have finally agreed to act.

“This additional money won’t fix low wages, but ​it is an opportunity for your council to invest in ​the staff who’ve supported ​local communities tirelessly throughout the pandemic. UNISON ​is keen for your help to ensure the funding gets to employees on the frontline.”

Some ​authorities ​have already taken action to improve pay, says UNISON. They include Somerset County Council, which has announced rises and bonuses for care workers, including a commitment to a minimum £10.50 per hour.

West Northamptonshire Council is paying a £600 ‘thank you’ bonus to care workers across the county. Oldham Council and Cheshire West and Chester Council have both recently committed to paying the real living wage of £9.90 an hour to care staff.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “This is ​all too little, too late, but it’s still crucial th​e money gets to care workers. ​Local authorities have the power to make this happen if councillors step up and do the right thing.

“Billions more are needed to get the care sector out of the crisis it’s facing. Paying staff a proper wage is a top priority to attract recruits and stop the exodus of existing staff.

“All care workers should be on at least the ​real living wage.”

Notes to editors:  
– *Findings from a UNISON survey published in 2021 show that a third of care staff isolating or off sick with Covid were not getting full sick pay. Care employers in England were meant to use the infection control fund to ensure full pay for staff, but some refused.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.