Haringey care workers struggling on low payHaringey care workers struggling on low pay
Local ads for care worker jobs paying below the living wage
By Luchia Robinson
Home care workers in Haringey are being paid below the real living wage (RLW), despite the councils’ pledge to make sure they are paid at that level.
According to research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), Haringey Council has commissioned work from Dimensions UK Ltd, a not-for-profit support provider found to have advertised support worker roles, paying wages below the RLW (of £10.85 per hour in London).
Dimensions UK Ltd advertised six of these roles in Haringey between October 2020-April 2021. TBIJ, however, found thousands of care worker job ads paying below the RLW, nationwide.
Haringey Council is one of 43 local authorities across the UK that is fully signed up to Unison’s ethical care charter – a series of commitments which include paying home care workers at least the living wage, and replacing zero contract hours with guaranteed ones. TBIJ found that 37 out of those 43 councils appear to be failing to ensure the pledge is enacted.
Some of the issues uncovered centred on a lack of high-quality training for care workers; not being given sick pay or paid for travel time between clients; social care staff not feeling as valued as NHS workers; and stress from job pressures.
According to research by the GMB trade union, three-quarters of care workers’ mental health has worsened during the pandemic, and an earlier study found that care workers are at a significantly higher risk of dying by suicide.
Data from 2019-20 revealed that the vacancy rate for care workers in Haringey is 4.5%, while the turnover rate is 11%. 60% of care workers in the borough are on zero-hour contracts.
Last year, following the agreement of the council’s 2020-21 budget, it was decided that care workers across the borough would receive the London Living Wage (LLW).
When asked about the commissioning of work from Dimensions UK Ltd, a Haringey Council spokesperson said: “According to our records, the council has one home care package commissioned with this provider. We can also confirm that Haringey Council has been paying Dimensions UK an increased rate to facilitate LLW payment since last year which was further increased in April 2021 in line with LLW.” “As a council, we take this matter extremely seriously. Our guidelines stipulate that providers pay their staff LLW at a minimum. We carry out audits and spot checks as part of our quality assurance process to assure ourselves that any contractual obligations are being met by the provider.”
Dimensions UK says that without appropriate funding from central government, local authorities use up their financial reserves to cover funding shortfalls, and as a result there is downward pressure on the amount of social care to which people are entitled. This puts more people at risk of entering crisis, and ultimately leads to skilled care workers being paid less than they should.
The care provider adds that it is lobbying government for a new settlement for social care.
UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Social care is a deeply flawed system in urgent need of reform. The blame for all that is wrong 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.
“But despite the odds being stacked against them, many local authorities have tried to do the right thing by getting on board with our ethical care charter.
“If some councils don’t appear to be meeting their charter commitments, UNISON will investigate and try to iron out what’s been going wrong.
“But that’s not to let the government off the hook. 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.”