Better pay for home care workers ‘not enough to ensure improvement of services’

Pay is important, but employers must also address working conditions and make staff feel valued, says the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Care worker helping with meds
Credit: Voisin/Phanie/Rex (posed by models)

Increasing pay for home care workers would not automatically lead to better quality services, according to a round-up of three recent and upcoming reports by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).

The paper notes that many people assume the low wages of care workers have a direct impact on the quality of care because low pay affects motivation, performance, recruitment and retention.

However, JRF’s research suggests the situation is more complex. “Although opinions differed, in general the experts we consulted said they did not think there was a simple situation where increased pay automatically led directly to increased quality.”

While levels of pay can have an impact on employers’ ability to recruit and retain talented staff, working conditions are key to retaining them, the paper found.

“Valuing staff can be expressed in monetary reward, but this is just one part of the overall organisation’s relationship with staff and the general societal recognition of the value of care work.

“So, while pay is important, it is not sufficient in itself to address the issue of ensuring quality care. A care worker could be paid twice as much, but if working conditions remain the same, they would still not be able to perform to their best ability and sustain or improve quality.”

It concludes that employers must adopt “intelligent approaches” to pay and progression, and consider ways to make staff feel valued, including offering benefits packages, training and supervision.

The round-up paper summaries the findings of an as-yet-unpublished Joseph Rowntree Foundation study that looked at staff pay, status and quality of care, as well as messages from two JRF reports on issues affecting low paid sectors.

According to Skills for Care, in 2012 adult care workers were paid an average of 91p per hour above the (then) national minimum wage of £6.19.

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One Response to Better pay for home care workers ‘not enough to ensure improvement of services’

  1. Jim Greer April 27, 2014 at 11:16 pm #

    I agree that more pay is not necessarily enough in itself but its a good start and it really ought to happen. Pay and conditions are terrible in this sector. I don’t think the companies themselves are to blame. The payment they receive from local authorities is very small to start with and local authorities themselves are being squeezed to an impossible degree. The condition of care workers is something which should be reviewed at a national level and local authorities need to be given the resources to pay for a care service that is of a decent standard with good service for customers and much better working conditions for staff. It will not happen by magic.