Expert Mark Topps gives his thoughts on increasing salaries for care and support workers, and how private companies can take the first steps to changing pay for the sector.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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