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A National Care Forum to Fix Social Care

Paul Nowak, Deputy General Secretary, TUC
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Caring about Social Care

The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on how important social care is – and just how vital those who work in the sector are. The autumn comprehensive spending review was a missed opportunity for government to tackle the crisis facing social care.

Transforming Pay and Conditions

We can transform the way we deliver care in this country by transforming the pay and conditions of the workforce. That means pulling care workers out of poverty and guaranteeing a minimum wage of at least £10 per hour. This shouldn’t be the limit of our ambition, but an important first step in valuing their work and show that the government is committed to delivering decent public services.

The comprehensive spending review was a chance for the government to deliver this and bring about meaningful change for the hundreds of thousands of dedicated care workers whose lives are blighted by low pay, job insecurity and excessive workloads.

But the Chancellor failed to deliver change for the care workforce and the social care system. Despite promises of jam tomorrow from the new Health and Social Care Levy, just

£200 million is being made available to support reforms in 2022/23. This goes nowhere near the £6.1bn funding gap the LGA says that social care has had to manage.

Care workers deserve more, as do the people they care for. TUC analysis found seven out of ten care workers are paid less than £10 per hour. As a result of low pay and poor working conditions, turnover in the sector is high at 30.4%.

A Pay Rise to £10 Per Hour

Over half a million (580,000) social care workers would gain from a rise in pay to £10 per hour. Eighty-five percent of those who would gain are women – an important pay boost in a sector with an overwhelmingly majority female workforce. And it would go some way to tackling the challenges with recruitment and retention fuelled by low pay.

The Health and Care Levy will hit Care Workers

We can afford to transform the pay of care workers by ensuring everyone makes a fair contribution to give us the social care system we deserve. But recently announced plans to fund social care with a new Health and Social Care Levy will hit the pay packets of those on the lowest pay the hardest, including care workers.

It is not right that the only change a care worker will see from this is an increase on their tax bill. The average care home worker can pay a bigger share of her income in tax to fund the social care system than the private equity magnate who profits from buying up care homes to re-sell them.

Funding Social Care from Taxes other than National Insurance

Part of the funding for a new social care system should come from starting to tax wealth on the same basis we tax income. Equalising Capital Gains Tax rates with income tax rates and removing exemptions could raise, on average, up to £17bn a year. The increased revenue can be used to deliver high-quality care and high-quality employment for those providing it.

Recruiting and Retaining Care Staff

Raising pay would help tackle the one of the biggest challenges in care – recruiting and retaining staff. With over 100,000 vacancies in adult social care and annual turnover of over 400,000 people, precious time, money and resources are spent having to recruit and train new staff. The challenge of retaining staff is harder amongst lower paid care workers.

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Research has shown that of the top reasons for workers leaving the sector, 51% cited wanting higher pay. Low pay was fuelling a negative perception of care work as low-skilled and less favourable comparisons to pay and terms and conditions in the NHS served to lessen the status of this work.

It’s clear that staying in social care jobs doesn’t bring the rewards, with little financial incentive to progress. Since March 2016, the pay gap for experienced care staff – those working for an employer for five years or more – compared to new starters has fallen from 30p per hour to just 12p.

By investing in care and ensuring the wealthy pay their fair share, government could make sure society’s most vulnerable people benefit from a higher standard of care. And dedicated care workers finally get the pay they deserve.

Recommendation 1

The Government should create a national social care forum, with unions, employers, government and others developing a comprehensive social care plan.

Recommendation 2

The national social care forum would create sectoral standards, such as on pay and conditions, like fair pay agreements we have heard about recently.

Recommendation 3

The national social care forum would help develop a National Skills and Accreditation Framework linked to a transparent pay and grading structure that ensures genuine career progression, proper recognition and fair reward is in place.

Paul Nowak, TUC


Reforming Adult Social Care – Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England

The Campaign for Learning’s report, Reforming Adult Social Care: Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England, is based on seventeen contributions from experts in both the adult social care sector and the post-16 education, skills and employability sectors. 

Three themes are common to most of the authors’ contributions – the scale of the adult social care sector in England, the complexity of policy making for the sector, and the need for greater integration of funding, pay, employment and skills. 

Part One: The Adult Social Care Sector

Part Two: Strategic Reforms to Adult Social Care

  • Paul Nowak, TUC: A National Care Forum to Fix Social Care
  • Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute: A Long-Term Pay, Employment and Skills Plan for Adult Social Care

Part Three: Recruitment in the Context of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy

  • Becci Newton, Institute for Employment Studies: Improving Pay and Job Quality in Adult Social Care
  • Karolina Gerlich, The Care Workers’ Charity: Encouraging Young People and Adults to become Adult Care Workers
  • Chris Goulden, Youth Futures Foundation: A Career in Adult Social Care: The Views of Young People
  • Andrew Morton, ERSA: Targeting Active Labour Market Policies to Fill Adult Social Care Vacancies

Part Four: The Delivery and Design of Social Care Qualifications

  • John Widdowson, Former FE College Principal: Embedding Emotional Support for Learners on Health and Social Care Courses
  • Naomi Dixon, Education and Training Foundation: Supporting Post-16 FE Practitioners to Teach Social Care

Part Five: The Role of Post-16 Education and Skills Policies

  • Elena Wilson, The Edge Foundation: Valuing Level 3 BTECs for 16-18 Year Olds Studying Health and Social Care
  • Julian Gravatt, AoC: What Post-16 FE Can and Cannot do to tackle the Adult Social Care crisis
  • Jane Hickie, AELP: Reforming Apprenticeship Funding and Delivery for Adult Social Care
  • Gemma Gathercole, CWLEP: Adults Skills, Adult Social Care and Devo-Deals

Part Six: Adult Learning and Adult Social Care

  • Susan Pember, HOLEX: The Wider Benefits of Adult Learning for Adult Social Care
  • Simon Parkinson, WEA: Adult Learning for Adults in Social Care
  • Campaign for Learning: Proposals for reform in England 
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