Demos Commission: Care Workers Should Be Paid A Living Wage

Paying care workers beneath living wage ‘sends entirely the wrong message’, says former care minister

Demos Commission on Residential Care, chaired by Paul Burstow MP, urges housing with care to become a living wage sector to boost standards and morale.

  • Year-long project demands industry-wide training standards and licence to practise
  • Recommendations come ahead of full report launch in early September

Care workers should receive a living wage and be trained to an industry-wide standard according to an influential commission led by former care minister Paul Burstow MP.

The reforms would improve standards as well as boost staff morale, reduce turnover and help tackle negative perceptions that have damaged the sector.

They will be published next month in the final report of Demos’s Commission on Residential Care. The year-long Commission brought together academics, industry experts and providers to explore the future of the ‘housing with care’ sector – covering everything from care homes, villages and supporting living for older and disabled people

Currently 78% of frontline care staff, including over half a million housing with care workers, earn on average £6.45 per hour – 14 pence above the minimum wage.

Increasing take-home pay to match the living wage would, Demos argues, significantly benefit recruitment, staff retention and motivation levels.

The additional cost would be paid for by a ‘fair funding formula’, a combination of greater investment from local authority commissioners, an increase in personal tax allowances for low paid staff and offset savings from reduced recruitment and training costs.

The Demos Commission also calls for a minimum level of training, with independently accredited certification, applied across the housing with care sector.

The licence would mean care workers would have to qualify for a ‘licence to practise’ before they are able to support people unsupervised. The licence could also be suspended or revoked in cases of malpractice or abuse.

The Government is currently piloting a Care Certificate, due to be introduced in March 2015. However, there are concerns that the qualification would not be externally and independently accredited, meaning it wouldn’t be portable across the industry.

Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall MP, has also previously stated Labour would support the idea of a more robust licence to practice.

‘Sends out entirely the wrong message’

The Commission’s research will highlight the impact of negative public perceptions, driven by much-publicised abuse scandals in care homes in the past few years.

Demos polling revealed negative perceptions are damaging the image of Britain’s care homes, with only a quarter of people (24%) saying they would consider moving into care if they became frailer in old age, compared with 43% who would not. Over half (54%) of those who wouldn’t move into care said it was because they feared the risk of neglect or abuse.

However, polling consistently showed that people with first-hand experience of housing with care generally held more positive views, and are more likely to consider care homes for themselves. The final report will also argue that raising pay and training standards play a vital role in changing perceptions.

Paul Burstow MP, former care minister and Chair of Demos’s Commission on Residential Care, said:

“The entire spectrum of housing with care – from care homes to extra care villages and supported living – could not function without a skilled, motivated and dedicated workforce. It is the lynchpin of the entire sector. An average salary of £6.45 an hour – just above the minimum wage – for direct care staff sends out entirely the wrong message. 

“It is high time we properly recognised care workers for the life changing work they do – and the first step must be proper remuneration. Making care a living wage sector is the first step towards this.” 

“We can’t deny this comes at a price – a price many care providers simply cannot meet without fair funding from commissioners which recognises the real cost of housing with care. Central government, local commissioners and care providers must strive to bring decent wages into the care workforce. It’s hard to see how the housing with care sector will survive otherwise.”

On improving the quality of training and qualifications in the sector Paul Burstow MP added:

“We need a minimum training standard, the certification of which is independently accredited and portable across the sector. In short, a licence to practise. Those not meeting the basic standard would not be able to work in the sector, nor would those ‘struck off’ for malpractice. 

“We need consistent, good quality care across housing with care – with a system people can trust to maintain standards and hold people to account when these aren’t met.

Demos’s Commission on Residential Care is chaired by the former Care Minister Paul Burstow MP and bringing together various providers and policymakers to develop a vision for the future of residential care.

The final report will be launched on Wednesday 3 September at a Westminster speech by Paul Burstow MP.

There are currently 376,250 elderly people in care homes in England, with a rapidly ageing population making it likely the number will continue to increase. In a speech at the Commission’s launch in July 2013, Paul Burstow MP said by 2030 there will be an extra 239,000 people over 85 needing 24/7 care, leaving our care sector dangerously ill prepared.

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