Time for fair wage for social care workers on ‘forgotten frontline’, says new coalition       

Christina McAnea says immediate emergency support fund needed to guarantee wage boost for workers

Employers, former ​health and care ministers, and the UK’s largest social care union are joining forces for the first time today (Monday) to call for a major funding package and a fair wage deal for low​-paid staff.

The Future Social Care Coalition – a new cross-party alliance of more than 80 organisations and individuals – says an immediate £3.9bn* emergency support fund is needed from the government to get the care sector through the pandemic’s second wave.

The money would also guarantee a significant wage boost to all social care employees in England ​says the Coalition, whose members include the National Care Association, the Care and Support Alliance – which includes Age UK, Carers UK, and Alzheimer’s Society – and UNISON.

Andy Burnham, Sir Norman Lamb, and Alistair Burt​ are among several former ministers who have joined the new group, which represents an unprecedented collaboration between organisations and individuals.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the group says Covid-19 has magnified problems that have existed in the sector for years and emphasises the urgent need for government intervention, making it clear this issue must no longer be ignored.

Workers on the ‘forgotten frontline’ are existing on poverty wages and zero-hours contracts, and job vacancies are causing ​huge problems for employers, the Coalition adds.

A substantial increase in resources for the care sector is needed ​now, along with a long-term solution guaranteeing ‘affordable, quality care for everyone that needs it now and in ​the future’, says the letter.

The letter urges the ​Chancellor to ​find the resources to bring about change in social care. This would allow the sector to begin to treated with the same respect as the NHS, and develop a comprehensive workforce strategy with ​better training and ​rates of pay.

Coalition advisory board co-chair and UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care has long been the forgotten service. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the sector’s faults like nothing else.

“Its problems cannot be ignored for a moment longer. This unprecedented alliance brings together employers, politicians and the biggest care union to make a powerful case for change. Now the government needs to listen and start to take the care crisis more seriously.

“Care needs urgent and lasting reform. Paying dedicated staff who look after our elderly and vulnerable relatives a proper wage would start to transform care into a service fit for the future.”

Charity director at Age UK and co-chair of the Care and Support Alliance Caroline Abrahams said: “Care workers have been the invisible heroes throughout the pandemic. They’ve been on the frontline giving their all while looking after older and disabled people. Many have put their own health and financial worries to one side, and some have tragically even paid the ultimate price.

“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated the need for strengthening the workforce. Social care is a people business and it’s impossible to deliver good care without enough committed, well-trained workers.

“The government must now do everything possible to help care workers at this very stressful time. That includes paying them a decent wage.”

Notes to editors:    
-*The support package provided by government would be in addition to the adult social care infection control fund. The Health Foundation has estimated the cost of stabilising and improving adult social care in England is £3.9bn. This was referenced by a recent report by the Health and Social Care Committee which said a substantial increase in funding is needed in the care sector, including for wage increases.
-To access the letter to Rishi Sunak, please click here.
Case studies:
Louise (not her real name) said: “I was off sick for three weeks and Covid-positive. But my manager said because I didn’t get it at work, they couldn’t pay me. I still have bills to pay but I got less than £15 a day.”
Emma said: “I really love my job but as well as being rewarding, it’s demanding, difficult and draining. There aren’t enough care workers which adds to the pressures. The low pay means it’s hard to recruit staff and often people don’t stay around for long.”
-The Future Social Care Coalition launch takes place on Monday 2 November from 1pm to 2.30pm on Zoom. It will be hosted by Channel 4 News health and social care editor Victoria MacDonald, with Andy Burnham and Christina McAnea the keynote speakers. To register for the event, please click here.
-The Future Social Care Coalition members are: Caroline Abrahams, Care and Support Alliance; Nadra Ahmed, National Care Association; Andy Burnham, former secretary of state for health and mayor of Greater Manchester; Alistair Burt, former community and social care minister; Paul Burstow, former community and social care minister and Social Care Institute for Excellence; Alastair Henderson, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges; Phil Hope, former care services minister; Lord Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service; Sir Norman Lamb, former community and social care minister; Vic Rayner, National Care Forum; Helen Walker, Carers UK. The co-chairs are Christina McAnea and Phil Hope.

Media contacts:
Anthony Barnes M: 07834 864794 E: a.barnes@unison.co.uk
Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk