AN INVESTIGATION has revealed that hundreds of Lancashire’s vital care workers are being paid less than the ‘real living wage’.
Data shows that in Blackburn with Darwen 35 posts for home care workers were advertised between October 2020 and April that paid less than the living wage of £9.50 per hour, while in the rest of Lancashire 175 posts were advertised in the same period, coming to a total of 210.
For care workers, who have been on the front line during the pandemic, low pay has left them struggling to feed and clothe their families, has brought on physical and metal health difficulties and has caused many to consider leaving their jobs, campaigners say.
Colne carer Carol Thompson, who is paid just £8.91 an hour, said: “Staff are starting to think you might as well be working in a supermarket. You get paid more, with no responsibilities.
“I care for three adults with learning disabilities and I’m responsible for them in all ways.
“It’s OK for us to have all these responsibilities, but they’re not recognising it in the pay.”
The figures, gathered by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which works with regional news outlets including the Lancashire Telegraph, found that 60 per cent of carer jobs advertised in the past six months were paid less than £9.50, or £10.85 in London, an hour which the Living Wage Foundation deems to be a ‘real living wage’.
This amounts to over 7,000 jobs across Britain.
The data also showed that 77 per cent of carers in Blackburn with Darwen, who are employed by various companies and agencies, are on zero hours contracts while the sector’s turnover rate in the borough was nearly 40 per cent, meaning that many elderly and vulnerable care users have to rely on a constantly changing rota of people.
In the rest of Lancashire, 41 per cent of carers are employed on zero hours contracts while the turnover rate is around 28 per cent.
Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said the figures were particularly shocking given the incredible contribution carers had made during the pandemic.
She said: “Care workers do an invaluable job supporting those they care for. Over the past 16 months that role has been more crucial than ever as vulnerable people have had to shield at home.
“Sadly yet again we see the consequences of over ten years of Government cuts and under investment. As people live longer the demand for more care workers will grow.
“It’s pretty obvious that the resource attached to providing care needs to be increased not reduced and those giving the care should be given wages that match the importance of their work. It’s shocking to hear that care workers are struggling to make ends meet.”
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Social care is a deeply flawed system in urgent need of reform. The blame must be laid solely at the government’s door.
“Ministers have failed to fund the system or make the necessary reform and so now care is in the grip of a damaging crisis.
“With the sector starved of resources, many councils are forced to commission care at bargain basement rates, resulting in poverty pay for highly skilled and dedicated staff.”
She added: “Ministers must stop with the feet-dragging and share their plans for the changes that have long been promised. Top of the list should be the cash to lift thousands of care staff who’ve more than proved their worth during the pandemic on to the real living wage.
“A proper pay rise would at a stroke make care a more attractive career option and help fill the thousands of vacancies currently putting such pressure on services, staff and the vulnerable.”
Officials in Blackburn with Darwen said they aim to ensure carers receive appropriate pay.
Executive member for adult services and prevention Mustafa Desai said: “The majority of care provision within the borough is commissioned to private providers.
“Blackburn with Darwen Council always aims to ensure that the money we pay to our care providers meets national living wage minimum levels or above, to make sure that carers can then be paid at the living wage.
“The funding coming in to local authorities and the challenges faced by our care providers can make this very difficult however as care commissioners it is something we review regularly and we do work with the care market as much as we can on this.”
Lancashire County cabinet member for adult services Graham Gooch echoed these points. He said: “We recognise the need to support providers to attract and retain staff, however in setting fees we also have to consider the need to manage pressures on the county council’s budget and ensure that all the vital services we provide remain sustainable.”