Philippa Stannard, Head of Fundraising & Communications, Autism at Kingwood for #BetterPay4SocialCare
‘Unprecedented’ was a much-used word at the onset of the pandemic, as social care providers flew into action to provide the best possible response and care for those they supported.
But it was the frontline support and care workers who continued to provide compassionate support, risking their health for others.
The pandemic shone a light on social care, demonstrating just how much the nation relied on our support workers. It also brought attention to fact that support workers were not given the rate of pay that they deserve, as they fulfilled their role to the people they support, and to society.
Autism at Kingwood Head of Fundraising and Communications, Philippa Stannard, and Kate Allen, the then Chief Executive of Autism at Kingwood, wanted to raise awareness around this, but the challenge was that many would assume that pay rate lay at the door of the social care providers. However, over a decade of austerity has seen public spending on adult social care provision fall significantly in real terms – and this reduction has been passed on to social care providers.
In the summer of 2020, Philippa planned the campaign #BetterPay4SocialCare, calling on central government to increase funding to local authorities, to be passed on to social care providers so that frontline support workers would receive a minimum of the Real Living Wage (RLW) (the amount calculated by the Real Living Wage Foundation as the minimum hourly rate to live on).
Setting up a #BetterPay4SocialCare web page, Philippa contacted social care providers to support and collaborate on the campaign. With the support of membership organisations, the 29 collaborating organisations represented 400+ social care providers.
Regular Teams meetings enabled the campaign to take shape in terms of online activities and events, culminating in the hand-over of a petition with over £10k signature to HM Treasury in November 2021, ahead of Rishi Sunak’s budget.
#BetterPay4SocialCare joined the Future Social Care Coalition (FSCC), a powerhouse of former Health Ministers and experts, contributing to the Social Care People Plan. This called on social care reform and parity of esteem with the NHS in terms of pay, training, and funding. Philippa and Kate attended a FSCC fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference, arguing the #BetterPay4SocialCare case.
At this time, the RLW was £9.50 per hour (£10.85 in London); providers reliant on statutory funding generally couldn’t pay this rate, with most support workers receiving around the National Living Wage (NLW). The November budget did see an increase of the NLW to £9.50 from April 2022 (but of course so did the RLW increase).
Social care providers were reliant on local authorities to provide an uplift in hourly rate payments to fund the increased National Living Wage. However, local authority increases are arbitrary; Autism at Kingwood received between 3-6%, less than the increase it needed to find to pay the NLW. Many organisations received less. Organisations were (are) losing talented support workers because of pay, and so forced to over-rely on expensive agency workers, not good for people supported or the financial health of providers.
Moving forward, local authorities and the Local Government Association are important allies. It is in their interest to support the campaign; the last thing they want are contracts returned to them because providers can’t afford to continue. Where is their person-centeredness?
The sector needs significant local authority uplifts. Next April’s National Living Wage increase necessitates an increase of 10%. But, to pay enough to attract and retain great talent and drive down agency use, we need closer to a 30%. This should be the focus of the next phase of campaigning.