Letter to Helen Whately, Minister for Care

On 3 September, ACEVO, PSS and VODG wrote to the Minister for Care, Helen Whately MP, about the recent announcement of public sector pay rises which do not include social care workers. This letter is open to additional signatories, which will be updated on this webpage regularly. Anyone who is interested in co-signing should contact our policy officer Maisie on Maisie.hulbert@acevo.org.uk.

Pay increases: exclusion of social care workers

Dear Minister,

I am writing on behalf of ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. Our vision is to see civil society leaders make the biggest possible difference, and our network of almost 1500 members includes leaders of small local groups to international household names. We are looking forward to working with you to strengthen the provision of health and social care across the country, helping to ensure that the charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups who are so vital to the provision of social care can play their part.

The Covid-19 crisis response

The Covid-19 pandemic has altered the health and social care landscape hugely. People employed by the NHS, local authorities, charities, social enterprises and people who use services risked their lives to deliver a crisis response. At the time of writing this letter, at least 300 NHS workers, including doctors, nurses, cleaners, porters, and 21 social care workers are reported to have died due to coronavirus.

You have spoken warmly about both NHS and social care staff and thanked them for their role in keeping people safe and rightly acknowledged that care workers have “stepped up at this important time for our country.” The general public have also shown their appreciation, through initiatives such as Clap for our Carers and Captain Sir Tom Moore’s NHS fundraising challenge.

Public sector pay increases

We are writing today because these warm words have been undermined by the fact that vital social care workers will not receive any pay increases. On 21 July 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced above-inflation pay rises for certain public sector staff. As Mr. Sunak said, “these past months have underlined what we always knew, that our public sector workers make a vital contribution to our country and that we can rely on them when we need them.” Doctors will receive a backdated 2.1% pay rise. However, despite using the broad term ‘public sector workers’, social care workers will receive no immediate pay increase. Central government funding cuts mean that local authorities often have to award contracts and care packages at incredibly low levels. The result is that commissioned organisations (including charities and social enterprises) cannot afford to pay care staff the real living wage. We believe it is a significant and damaging oversight not to provide resources to increase wages of these public sector workers in line with others, and we urge you to ask the chancellor to reconsider.

Social care workers have been vital to keep people safe during the pandemic, but their role is set to become even more important as we move into recovery. They have and will continue to support disabled and older people to live independently, make decisions about their own lives, stay well and connected, go to work and participate in their communities. Their role is fundamental, yet over 7 in 10 social care workers earn under £10 per hour and 60% of care workers are paid below the real living wage (£9.30 per hour across the UK). Disabled and older people employing their own personal assistants via direct payments struggle to pay the real living wage because their care packages have been reduced by local authorities. Given that the chancellors pay announcement was publicly framed as a ‘thank you’ to those who risked their lives helping others, it is a significant decision to exclude a group of workers who did just that. It diminishes previous public praise by politicians, and risks lowering staff morale at a time when it is crucial in helping communities to recover and give people their independence back.

We hope you will agree as minister for care that social care staff are not low-skilled. It is time they were also not low-paid. As infrastructure organisations representing civil society in health and social care and organisations co-ordinating and delivering services, we ask that local authorities are properly resourced to ensure that pay for social care workers is fair and reflective of their vital contribution to our nation’s health. The need for reform to social care has been amplified by the coronavirus crisis, where workers have contributed more than ever. We believe there is an opportunity for central government to make the change needed now and provide workers with the wages they deserve, by releasing funds to local authorities so that these vital staff can help the country to build back.

We therefore urge you to ask the Treasury to reconsider this decision, and release additional ring-fenced money to local authorities to ensure everyone working in social care, including personal assistants, can be paid the real living wage.

Yours sincerely,

  • Vicky Browning, chief executive, ACEVO
  • Lesley Dixon, chief executive, PSS
  • Rhidian Hughes, chief executive, VODG

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