Opinion

We need bold and immediate action to support our social care workforce

Karolina Gerlich, CEO, The Care Workers Charity

As restrictions are being lifted post COVID 19 pandemic, it would be natural to assume that things are getting easier for everyone. Sadly, our statistics show a vastly different picture. As a benevolent fund for care workers in the UK we are concerned about the effect the pandemic and rising living costs are having on the social care workforce.

Compared to 2020, the amount we awarded in crisis grants in 2021 increased by 27%. Due to increasing living costs, changes to universal credit and little to no increase in pay, rising fuel costs and the impact of significant rises in heating bills in 2022, plus the rise in national insurance, we are unfortunately seeing an increase in demand for our crisis grants.

Care workers are on the front line and have continued to work throughout the pandemic. We know from our grant applications that many cite burnout, stress, anxiety, or depression and these are phrases we commonly see on applications, It is clear that the mental, emotional, and physical health of care workers has suffered tremendously. Most care workers’ situations are never isolated and will fall between multiple different circumstances.

All the above contributes to loss of income being the most common circumstance care workers find themselves in with 34% of all paid applications citing this as a reason. Daily living costs remains the most frequent use of our grants with 47% using the grant for this reason.

We believe care workers should earn at least the Real Living Wage which is set at £9.90 in the UK and £11.05 in London as the cost of living rises.

Statistics from Skills for Care  showed that in 20/21 an astounding 71% of care workers earned less that the Real Living Wage, and according to the Resolution Foundation, millions of families are facing a “cost-of-living catastrophe” in 2022.

It says a 1.25% increase in National Insurance contributions will cost the average household £600 a year while the higher energy bills cap is expected to add an additional £500 to spending. Both will come into force in April.

While we welcome the latest White Paper and its plans, we feel that we need bold and immediate action to support our social care workforce, lifting them out of poverty and allowing them to continue the incredible work that they do daily.

We find it unacceptable that supporting the lives of others is still considered a minimum wage job role and it is not surprising to us the recruitment and retention crisis the sector is facing now. While the pandemic has been a worldwide tragedy it has also shown the strength and dedication of our care workers on the frontline and has shown that the responsibility for the care wellbeing of another person should be valued far more than it has been in the past. Significant change is still needed to bring care workers into the same wage bracket and parity of esteem as their NHS counterparts.

In an ideal world our charity would not need to exist but statistics from our own and other reliable sources show the desperate need for support for our social care workers and we are proud to support those in need.

To help us reach even more social care workers in crisis, please drop us an email at info@thecwc.org.uk to discuss partnering with us and/or donate here

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