Behind the headlines

The Local Government Pay Commission has rejected union calls for
a minimum wage rate of £6.50 an hour for public sector
workers. The rate would have been significantly above the national
minimum wage set by the government of £4.50 an hour. Although
it acknowledged that pay was an important factor in recruiting and
retaining social workers, the commission said that the case for a
general uprating of the minimum rate of pay had not been made.
However, the commission, set up last year following strikes by
public sector workers after a 3 per cent pay rise, did admit that
the lack of money in social care compared with the NHS was
“undermining the relative attractiveness of employment in local
government.” Partnership working between health and social care had
exacerbated the situation because of what is widely believed to be
the superior pay deal laid out in the NHS’s Agenda for Change.
While rejecting performance-related pay, the commission does
suggest that pay rises should be linked systematically to skills,
qualifications and competencies.   

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Centre for
Health Services Management, University of Birmingham

“The prime task is to attract staff quickly, and improved pay is
the best way of doing this. However, it is right to point out the
need for a proper restructuring based upon progression – social
care needs to be seen as a career, rather than one of several lowly
paid jobs on offer. The commission also highlights another key
issue of comparability of pay in joint working arrangements – some
of the best laid plans for partnership working have floundered on
the rock of pay differentials.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“Low wages mean poverty, including children in poverty, and
inequality. It doesn’t much matter where people are working.
Creating sustainable communities and tackling inequalities are
rightly part of this government’s stated agenda. This will not be
achieved while the minimum wage is so low. We also need, however,
to hear what our staff tell us about offering greater flexibility
in their working lives. It would cost us nothing to ask new
employees what hours and days they want to work, building a review
of that into our appraisal systems and seeing how much of their
wishes we can accommodate within the exigencies of the

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“Upping the rate of minimum pay would only serve to address a
symptom of the recruitment and retention crisis. I agree that pay
is a significant factor but let’s face it, whoever chose to work in
the social care sector for the money alone? Workers need to be
valued and respected through a commitment to their professional
development. Training, supervision and support need to be invested

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Without the enormous hard work and commitment of social care
workers supporting frail and disabled people at home, the burden on
the NHS and our hospitals would be at meltdown level. The bottom
line is that no one feels equally valued if their sector, and
therefore their pay packet, does not have the same priority at the
bargaining table. Of course, we should also reward skills and
expertise but to achieve this we also need enough cover in place to
allow social workers to attend. I am frankly staggered by the Pay
Commission’s response.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The Local Government Pay Commission has missed an opportunity to
reduce the widening pay divide between social care support staff
and their managers, and between social care and health. The problem
is getting more acute as social care and health work more closely
together – a trend that is set to gather apace with the new
children’s trusts in place in all local authorities by 2006.”

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