I’ve spent a lot of time talking to a number of care and support workers, and one thing that’s clear is that there’s a huge gap between wages and responsibilities. This is one of the key reasons why many are leaving the sector and why it’s so hard to recruit and compete in the current job market. But what can be done to bridge the gap?
The average salary for a support worker/care assistant is between £15,000 and £18,000 a year, according to latest industry statistics. This equates to an average hourly rate of between £8.50 and £9.50, which compared to the sheer number of responsibilities that come with these roles, is incredibly low. From day-to-day, staff can find themselves:
- Administering medication
- Aiding people to eat well
- Assisting with personal care (washing and dressing)
- Carrying our domestic tasks such as doing the laundry, cooking and cleaning
- Encouraging and managing family contact, including managing events like birthdays
- Helping people reach life goals and upskilling them to go college, get a job etc.
- Managing people’s finances, supporting them to budget and doing shopping
- Monitoring and managing mental health, physical health and other ailments
- Performing heath tasks like stoma care, wound care, monitoring vital observations and taking on more of the roles that a district nurse would typically do
- Remembering peoples likes and dislikes, to tailor the care being delivered
- Supporting people to access the local community and maintain a social life
- Transporting people to appointments.
The list is endless and depending on the shift, a support worker/care assistant could be doing many of the above and more.
Care workers’ salaries are often compared to many other sectors to highlight how underpaid they are, including supermarket workers, nursery workers, teaching assistants and cleaners. I think as a sector we really need to stop making this comparison for 2 reasons:
- As a sector we’re always trying to remove the stigma about the workforce being unskilled and not a professional career choice. When we compare ourselves to other industries it makes us just as bad and projects the image that other professions are unskilled.
- Social care should stand alone. We’re constantly focusing on what other sectors are doing and not what we should be doing. If we’re going to compare ourselves, it should be to blue-chip companies, start-ups and tech firms who are leaps and bounds ahead of the game in terms of how they recruit, treat and retain their staff.
Putting a spotlight on care
Social care has never been so prominent in the media, with local and national news, newspapers and radio stations all talking about the sector. We even had Jodie Comer portray the life of a care worker in Channel 4’s Help.
Because of this coverage, I truly believe that the general public see just how vital care and support workers are to ensuring people are kept safe and well, both within care homes and out in the wider community.
“90% of those working in social care don’t feel that they receive the recognition they deserve.”
Morale is at an all-time low, with Institute of Health and Social Care Management’s Public Image of Social Care Survey (March 2021) revealing that “90% of those working in social care don’t feel that they receive the recognition they deserve.”
So, what can be done to boost morale?
Social care leaders and experts have voiced and continue to campaign for salaries to be increased, which will come some way to improving this statistic. The figure being banded around at the moment is in the region of £11-12 per hour.
I personally believe that the hourly rate needs to be sat at around £15 per hour to entice new people into the sector and pay staff what they’re truly worth.
We’re a long way from this hourly rate for services funded by local authorities, due to the low rate per hour that they commission, but for many private services who are charging more for care, this is much more achievable. If these organisations increase their salaries, they’ll set a precedent for others around them which will help generate a positive change for the sector.
Time for change
During the pandemic, care workers across the country have shown an incredible level of selflessness and commitment, regularly putting those they care for ahead of their own families.
It only seems right that they get the pay they deserve.