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Public sector pay rise announcement ‘kick in the teeth for social care staff’

The pay rise does not cover nurses, healthcare assistants or social care workers.

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A tribute and memorial to NHS and social care staff who gave their lives during the fight against Covid-19 (Scott Wilson/PA)

A tribute and memorial to NHS and social care staff who gave their lives during the fight against Covid-19 (Scott Wilson/PA)

A tribute and memorial to NHS and social care staff who gave their lives during the fight against Covid-19 (Scott Wilson/PA)

Social care providers have accused the Government of “sidestepping” the issue of low pay for care staff as it announced pay rises for thousands of key workers in the public sector.

Care associations called for action to replace “lip service”, following a gruelling few months of coronavirus during which frontline care staff have “put themselves in harm’s way”.

The above-inflation pay rise announced by the Chancellor on Tuesday will see almost 900,000 workers benefit, with teachers and doctors seeing the largest increase at 3.1% and 2.8% respectively, according to the Treasury.

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

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Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It also includes police, prison officers, National Crime Agency staff, members of the judiciary, armed forces and senior civil servants, but not nurses and healthcare assistants, who are covered by a three-year pay deal agreed in 2018.

The Institute for Public Policy Research think tank said not including nurses and carers was “unforgivable” and an “unjustifiable snub”.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said it is not acceptable to make nurses wait a year, adding: “In this year, of all years, it is time to value these professionals and begin to fill the tens of thousands of vacant posts.”

But even for junior doctors, the 2% pay rise will mean the majority have seen their wages fall by between £500 and £850 in comparison to senior colleagues in just two years, the HCSA said.

The hospital doctors’ union said the announcement will “land a damaging psychological blow on England’s lowest-paid doctors”.

Morale in the social care workforce will also be damaged by the announcement,  with one care provider group calling it the latest “kick in the teeth” from the Government.

Chief executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, said: “These past few months have been an incredibly challenging time for our NHS and social care and it is imperative that frontline staff are recognised and rewarded as such.

“We need to ensure that lip service is replaced by action in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the adult social care sector.”

Vic Rayner, executive director at the National Care Forum, which represents 120 of the UK’s social care charities, said: “It is unacceptable for the Government to sidestep the issue around social care workers’ pay in today’s announcement.

“Care workers have been a stalwart of the Covid front line and need recognition. This has never been a low-skilled job, and should never again be consigned as a low-paid role.

“We need the Government to act now to ensure that each and every care worker is rewarded for their extraordinary work.”

They have put themselves in harm’s way, they deserve something and this is a kick in the teeth again, about being forgotten yet again, and it beggars belief in that perspective.Mike Padgham, chairman of the Independent Care Group

The Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and north Yorkshire, welcomed the pay rises but said social care being left out again was “shocking”.

Chairman Mike Padgham told the PA news agency: “They have put themselves in harm’s way, they deserve something, and this is a kick in the teeth again, about being forgotten yet again, and it beggars belief in that perspective.

“I hope the Government will rethink and make sure social care staff get due attention – not just praise but something in their pay packets as well.”

He said independent providers are between a rock and a hard place – if they raise their staff’s wages, they will be forced to charge more to local authorities which are “not funded properly”.

Mark Adams, chief executive of the social care charity Community Integrated Care, said it is a matter of “national shame” that social care workers have been on the frontline on minimum wage salaries.

He said: “Whilst investment in public sector workers is clearly welcome, it is bitterly disappointing that social care remains overlooked and ignored by Government.

“The persistent restrictions on social care funding means that this is by default a largely minimum wage sector.

“With 80% of our income being spent directly on salaries, care providers do not have capacity to independently provide the uplifts that our workforce deserves without investment in our sector.

“This is continually not happening and it is illogical for the Government to present this as a local authority responsibility to solve.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said many public sector workers such as job centre staff and local government employees “deserve a decent pay settlement too”.

She added: “And the Government should urgently announce a pay rise for social care workers, who put their lives on the line to care for others during this pandemic.”

Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care workers deserve nothing less than a complete overhaul of their sector to show they will no longer be underpaid and undervalued.”

PA