Essex residents support social care pay rise ahead of council vote

UNISON activists pose with banners support fair pay for care workers outside County Hall in Chelmsford

Hundreds of postcards from Essex residents demanding better treatment for care workers will be handed over to county council leaders today.

The postcards, collected by care workers’ union UNISON during town centre stalls, call on Essex County Council social care supremo John Spence to properly fund social care so that providers can pay staff a real living wage and contractual sick pay.

Around 250 Essex residents and care staff signed the postcards saying: “I want to be assured that the vulnerable people in our county receive the best possible care, and that can only happen if we can attract and retain the best staff.”

Care workers added their own messages explaining what a pay rise would mean to them.

One wrote: “It would mean feeling more valued and I would have a more comfortable lifestyle. I would be able to have a day off.” Another added: “I would be able to remain in this job, instead of looking for something else.” And a third simply said: “It would give me some hope in my future.”

Members of the public also wrote their own messages. One said: “Everyone should get sick pay and a living wage, especially those caring for our most vulnerable.” A second wrote: “Carers are undervalued and we all know it.” Another added: “You keep clapping them, but now it’s time to show real appreciation.”

Since UNISON started pushing the council on care workers’ pay, County Hall has passed on cash from a central government recruitment and retention fund to raise wages and is voting today on extra funding for social care providers.

The union welcomes the prospect of extra cash but warns that there must be guarantees it will reach workers’ pockets.

Spiralling inflation caused by soaring energy prices and the ballooning costs of household essentials mean care workers need a bumper pay rise just to keep afloat, says UNISON, pointing out that many skilled workers have already left the sector for better paid, less stressful jobs elsewhere.

UNISON Eastern social care lead Caroline Hennessy said: “No-one can doubt the incredible contribution care workers have made during the pandemic, making huge personal sacrifice for little pay or reward.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the level of support members of the public have shown for care staff. We hope that councillors will listen to this clear message when they come to today’s vote.

“It’s not just care workers that will benefit from a proper pay rise, but all of Essex’s most vulnerable residents and their families. Essex County Council must act.”