Social care staff in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire push for a living wage

The words Who Cares and a logo of a person and a question mark shaped like a heart

Social care staff in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire are launching a new campaign for a living wage and proper sick pay next week.

Frontline care staff will be joined by Christina McAnea, general secretary of care workers’ union UNISON, and Sara Johnson of the Living Wage Foundation to launch Who Cares? on Monday evening, calling on councils to guarantee better conditions in the services they commission.

The living wage is the sum needed to actually make ends meet, it is currently set at £9.50 an hour. Research from last year shows that thousands of care workers across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire earn too little to survive, ranging from 56% paid below the living wage in Hertfordshire to 85% in Bedford Borough.

But many have been taking home even less during the pandemic when off sick with Covid or forced to self-isolate to protect their colleagues and the vulnerable people they care for. A UNISON survey earlier this year found that just half of the workers that self-isolated received their normal pay, while 11% got no pay at all, despite special government funds to cover their wages.

The poverty pay and poor conditions are contributing to a broader crisis, as workers flock out of the sector for higher paid, less stressful jobs elsewhere, warns UNISON.

A survey of social care employers released today reveals that nearly three-quarters of employers have seen an increase in numbers of staff leaving. Wanting an easier job and better pay were the top reasons for quitting.

UNISON Eastern regional organiser Nalin Cooke said: “Social care has hurtled past crisis point. Staff are underpaid and undervalued – it’s no wonder there’s an exodus from the profession.

“Our local councils are responsible for much of these services. They must ensure that the services that they commission – that we pay for – treat care workers with the respect they deserve.

Frontline care staff will be sharing their stories of working through the pandemic and explaining why a living wage, contractual sick pay and Covid-related sick pay would help them, their colleagues and the service users that rely on them.

Francisca Mhosva, a care worker in Hertfordshire, said: “We all know that during the pandemic, carers risked their lives even though PPE was inadequate. We have worked well as a team to protect the elderly from the virus.

“But carers like me had little protection, little pay and no sick pay.

“I hope the government will start supporting us by recognising our worth and giving us rights equal to health workers.”

Voices from the frontline

The online meeting from 6pm-7pm on Monday 25 October is open to all.