Care system ‘on brink of collapse’ as employers pay ‘illegally-low’ wages

Many care worker employers are breaking the law without consequence by offering ‘shockingly’ low pay, according to a national social care expert.

The Resolution Foundation – a UK think-tank – revealed yesterday that 160,000 care workers are paid less than the minimum wage – meaning they miss out on £815 a year on average.

Laura Gardiner, a social care expert from the organisation, believed that the statistics were ‘shocking’ and something needed to be done to tackle the issue.

“If we want a quality, sustainable social care system then we’re going to have to pay the workers better,” she said.

“It’s shocking because it’s basically illegal pay levels on the part of some care providers.

“Care workers should have more recognition, and part of that is about pay.”

The Resolution Foundation discovered that workers were losing a total of £130million a year, and employers failing to pay the minimum wage meant the government were losing out on an additional £9million of employer national insurance contributions.

“If a better paid workforce would pay more taxes and claim less in tax credit up front, it would have long term gains,” Laura said.

“That has to flow down the system if we want to pay the workforce better.

“There probably is a link between pay and quality in terms of motivation, retaining care workers in terms of continuity of care and keeping people out of hospital beds for longer.

“The fault has to rest with employers, because they’re the ones breaking the law.”

Laura also believed that public cuts were having an impact on low pay on a wide-scale level.

“In terms of wider issues of low pay, we do recognise that increasingly constrained public budgets are driving down paying conditions for the workforce,” she said.

“We certainly think that we need to have more money in the system in order to pay workers better and we need to understand how much that’s going to cost, who’s going to benefit from it, and therefore, who’s going to pay for it.

“It’s going to be likely down to the national funding settlement, what local authorities do, and how care providers organise their workforce.”

Oldham MP Debbie Abrahams explained that the care system was ‘close to collapse’ in a scathing assessment of current practices.

She told MM: “Since 2010, £2.7billion has been cut from budgets that pay for adult social care while the number of older people needing care has increased.

“The result is that the system is close to collapse, with some elderly people receiving just 15 minute visits and care by a workforce that is undervalued.”

Colin Angel, Policy and Campaigns Director for the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), called for action to be taken against employers paying substandard wages.

“HM Revenue and Custom (HMRC) have a responsibility to investigate and, where appropriate, take action against employers which do not pay national minimum wage,” he said.

“However, we repeat our calls for commissioners to take the actual costs of care services into account when letting contracts to the independent and voluntary sector, and for government to ensure independent oversight of the practices of social care commissioners.

“While the Resolution Foundation’s estimates of the size of underpayment to affected workers are significantly higher than those found in practice by HMRC, their calculations add to the growing concerns over a sector struggling to offer appropriate terms and conditions to front-line workers.”

Image courtesy of Fixers, with thanks.

Related Articles