Job satisfaction is more important to social care staff than pay, according to the Department of Health, despite a report showing nearly one in 10 workers are paid below the minimum wage.
Social care staff are among the lowest paid groups in the economy, with 9% of the 1.5m workforce earning less than the minimum wage of £5.93 an hour, according to the Low Pay Commission’s latest report, published last week.
But the DH is adamant that social care staff put job satisfaction before earnings and low pay would have little effect on the quality of the workforce.
“Recent surveys have shown that the main reason people work in social care isn’t the level of pay but the high satisfaction they obtain from caring for people with needs,” a spokesperson said.
Providers are already warning that they will be unable to implement October’s planned 15p increase of the minimum wage to £6.08 an hour.
The Low Pay Commission is urging ministers to ensure that the commissioning policies of local authorities should reflect the actual costs of care, including the minimum wage. It said it had made this recommendation repeatedly.
The spokesperson said the DH had “fully accepted” the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission on social care, but added: “It is for local social care employers to determine the wage rates for their staff which should be based on the requirements of general employment legislation including national minimum wage.”
The commission said that, although the government had previously accepted similar recommendations, local authorities had failed to increase fees in line with mounting costs to providers, including rises in the minimum wage.
Bridget Warr, chief executive of United Kingdom Homecare Association, said: “The commission has made this recommendation several times and we see no evidence to suggest that the government is moving to implement it.”
Instead, many social care providers are facing a cut in fees of up to 10%, and say they cannot afford to pay staff more.
The National Care Association said its members were “dismayed” about the 15p increase to the minimum wage.
The chair, Nadra Ahmed, warned it could lead to job losses.
“Our members would like to be able to pay their staff more, but a majority of those social care providers will be trying to come to terms with cuts to the fees paid to them by local government for care of between 1% and 10%,” she said.
“I am sure that we will see job losses and business failures because of this reckless attitude towards small- and medium-sized businesses.”
Turnover rates stand at more than 20% in England’s care sector, according to Skills for Care’s State of the Adult Social Care Workforce Report in 2010. This also found that the median hourly pay of supermarket cashiers, at £6.47, was 50p more than care workers in the private sector.
The DH spokesperson added that it was producing a workforce development strategy with Skills for Care, due soon.
She said: “This will set out ways of developing a confident, capable and well-trained workforce that will be able to deliver the government’s vision of a more personalised, more preventive, and more outcomes-focused service.”
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