Islington, Southwark first councils in country to sign Ethical Care Charter

Islington and Southwark Councils in London are leading the way in the commissioning of homecare services, today (13 December 2013) becoming the first local authorities in the country to formally sign up to the UNISON Ethical Care Charter.

The Charter sets minimum standards to protect the dignity and quality of life for people who need homecare. It commits councils to buying homecare only from providers who give workers enough time, training and a living wage, so they can provide better quality care for thousands of service users who rely on it. 

By signing up to the Charter, and becoming Ethical Care Councils, authorities pledge to commission care only from providers who:

  • Give workers the freedom to provide appropriate care and be given the time to talk to their clients.
  • Allocate clients the same homecare worker(s) wherever possible.
  • Do not use zero hour contracts.
  • Pay the Living Wage.*
  • Match the time allocated to visits to the particular needs of the client. In general, 15-minute visits will not be used as they undermine the dignity of the clients.
  • Pay homecare workers for their travel time, their travel costs and other necessary expenses such as mobile phone use.
  • Schedule visits so that homecare workers are not forced to rush their time with clients or leave their clients early to get to the next one on time.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:  

“Islington and Southwark are leading by example in adopting the Charter and tackling the problems with homecare contracts head on. 

“Making this commitment to decent employment conditions for care workers is all about improving the quality of life for the people they care for. A living wage and more secure employment  will help make it possible for dedicated care workers to stay in the job and focus on giving the best possible care.”

Councillor Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council, said:

“No-one should do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on. Islington Council has signed this Charter to say we reject poverty wages for home carers and say yes to guaranteed employment, the London Living Wage and recognition for a job well done.”

Councillor Janet Burgess, deputy leader of Islington Council and executive member for health and wellbeing, said:

“Home carers do a vital job helping older and vulnerable residents live with dignity and independence in their own home. We believe clients benefit from a higher quality of care when properly rewarded home carers take pride in the work they do.”

Catherine McDonald, cabinet member for adult social care, health and equalities for Southwark Council, said:

“I am delighted that Southwark has signed up to UNISON’s Ethical Homecare Charter. It is utterly unfair that those who provide crucial home-caring services to our most vulnerable people are often forced on to zero hours contracts, meaning no guarantee of work or pay. We are tackling this by signing up to this Charter in full, and we have already brought in the London Living Wage.”


Notes to Editors: 

  • The signing will take place at 11am at UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Road, London. Copies of photos will be available from Glen Turner on 07545 115 184

  • The Charter was developed following UNISON’s ‘Time to Care’ report in 2012 (attached). The report revealed widespread fear from homecare workers that short visit times and high staff turnover mean the care they are able to give falls far short of clients’ needs for safety, dignity and an ongoing relationship with their care worker. 
  • *The Living Wage in London is £8.80 an hour. Outside  London it is £7.65 an hour. 
  • Further quotes:

Lorraine Ling, a homecare worker and UNISON member from Islington, said:

“We are delighted that Islington has signed up to the Ethical Care Charter. It not only benefits our members but the service users too. But it’s not just sbout signing up, it’s about us as a union working in partnership with the council to make sure we really deliver.”

Fay Howell, Branch Manager of MiHomeCare in Southwark, said:

“The Ethical Care Charter highlights the importance of working conditions in the care industry. It helps to ensure quality care for service users and career development for support workers. Sustainable pay rates will help recruitment and retention, leading to a more stable workforce.”

Sue Plain, UNISON Branch Secretary at Southwark Council, said:

“Our homecare members have campaigned hard for this and will leave a legacy of better terms and conditions for those who follow them – and a better quality of homecare for all the residents of Southwark. They should be very proud of the achievement and well done to Southwark Council for listening and taking action.”