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Maeve McClenaghan
Charles Boutau
Vicky Gayle

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Home care workers across the UK work for less than living wages, although many councils have pledged to pay at least as much, according to a new study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Long-awaited plans to reform welfare for Adults have stayed away while the pandemic has put more pressure on the system. The government has no clear plan on how to close a huge funding gap – estimated at £ 10 billion – but has encouraged the public to clap for our caregivers, a response one carer said was pathetic.

According to polls According to the Fawcett Society, most people in the UK believe that home carers should make a real living – an amount intended to cover bills and living expenses, with some money allocated for emergencies such as urgent dental work. However, the Bureau can reveal that more than 60% of nursing jobs advertised in the past six months have been paid less – a number that adds up to more than 7,000 jobs across the UK.

The rate was even higher in Wales, where nearly three quarters of all carers were below real living wages, despite the Welsh government’s recent commitment that all carers would receive this rate.

Most of home care is paid at least in part by local councils, and 43 local authorities have signed a charter undertaking to pay their caregivers a real living. But the bureau found jobs advertised for less than that in 37 of these areas, with some offering as little as £ 8 an hour, which was less than the minimum wage for those over 21. Nurses said many of them were due The low pay for grueling labor struggled to feed and clothe their families, created mental and physical health problems, and caused many of them to quit their jobs. One nurse told the office, “The only way to make a living in this profession is to sacrifice your own health and family to work ridiculous hours.” In response to our findings, the Minister of Health said Sajid Javid: “Our carers have done an absolutely remarkable job, especially during this pandemic … I would like a fairer settlement for the carers, and that’s part of our social care plan to find a longer-term sustainable solution.” however, he does not say how to raise the necessary additional funding.

Angela Rayner, Labor vice-chairwoman who was a nurse before becoming a MP, said, “It is a national shame that the vast majority of social workers are paid less than the subsistence level … The prime minister promised us a plan, the soci repair care. He has to put his money in there and start treating our social welfare heroes with the dignity and respect they deserve. “

Home care workers provide vital support to millions of people, including those with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, chronic illnesses or older people. Your role can include the most intimate of tasks, such as helping people wash, dress, feed, take medication, and use the toilet. For some people, their caregivers are the only human contact they will have in a day.

Over a six month period, the Bureau analyzed thousands of job advertisements from Reed.co.uk, one of the UK’s largest recruiting websites, and compiled a list of home care services used by councils through freedom of information requests and public spending records. The comparison of the two resulted in a record of all positions advertised by care services that are known to provide care commissioned by the community.

Although it was impossible to determine whether each job was from a community or a private client When paid, several of these care companies informed the office that a carer’s work would not be purely public or private care and that most of their work would be done by councils. This is in line with research suggesting that around three quarters of all home care is publicly funded.

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The demand for home care services has seen a “phenomenal” surge during the pandemic, and experts warn that the effects of long-term Covid could add additional stress. New research by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), shared exclusively with the Bureau, found that social and caregivers were severely affected by their workload and financial concerns during the pandemic, even when compared to other key workers.

It is not a sudden crisis. Adult welfare budgets on numerous councils have been under pressure for years, and Westminster funding has failed to meet growing demand and costs. The Office’s analysis of the Council’s papers revealed that it would take many millions more pounds to be able to pay the carers a real living wage.

Justina * visits around a dozen elderly people and people with mental health problems every day. She makes £ 9.20 an hour, less than real living which is set at £ 9.50 an hour for those outside London. The vast majority of the people she looks after are financed by the municipality. Her client list used to be split between three people, but now it’s covered by two people, which means she sometimes has to shorten visits to vulnerable people to include them all.

She told the FBI that it frustrated her to watching people clap for their carers as she fights. “It was absolutely pathetic. I love my job, but I told my boss that if anything else happens, I have to go because it’s just so unnoticed … I would go and sort packages if I have to. At one point I had three jobs. ”

The Real Living Wage is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation and is intended to cover the real cost of living, ie to be able to pay bills for unexpected costs such as a dental emergency with some money. The latest tariff, set in November 2020, is £ 9.50 outside London and £ 10.85 in London. The Foundation informed the Bureau that all new positions posted after November should be paid at this rate, while existing positions should be increased to this rate by May of this year.

The rate differs from the statutory minimum wage which is £ 8.91 for those over 23, £ 8.36 for 21-22 year olds, £ 6.56 for 18-20 year olds and £ 4.62 for under 18 years of age.

Justina, a single mother, said she was struggling to afford clothes, let alone a tablet or computer, for her two children, which led to problems when the lockdown forced schools to close. She had to get up at 4 a.m. to access her children’s abandoned class assignments on her cell phone before hand copying them onto paper for them – all before setting off on a shift of up to 15 hours.

She became recently injured at work but since her job has no sick pay her family has to survive on £ 96.35 a week. It’s bad enough that she’s tempted to go back to work, even if it means her injury is getting worse. “I was just thinking about the money I was going to lose. You know, I wouldn’t care if I was crippled for the rest of my life with money coming into my bank account, ”she said.

Justina is not the only one taking a heavy toll on care. A home nurse told the office that many of her colleagues were taking antidepressants because of the stress of their job. Another said the long hours and low salary left them struggling with exhaustion, anxiety and depression. A survey by the RSA found that around a quarter of nurses felt that they could not take time off even if they were sick.

Others feel systematically undervalued, including when it comes to labor costs. Emma *, a caregiver in Hull, said about a quarter of her take away salary is used for gasoline. “You are never in one area. A few years ago when we asked for money for gasoline, [the nursing staff] replied by saying it would be the extra 0.30p in our hourly wage. It’s so daunting. ”

While care providers are supposed to pay workers for the time they need between appointments, many still don’t. Some workers told the office that they had to end their appointments early in order to have time to travel and that their salary had been cut as a result.

Laura Mwamba, director of Be Caring, a home care agency, said the tariff paid by the councils made it impossible to offer a living wage. Councils across the north of England pay Be Caring for every hour of care required, but she said they don’t take into account travel time between calls or the company’s other costs of doing business. “The hourly rate we get doesn’t cover the cost, so we can’t pay the caregivers a living wage, and we can’t pay them from absence to finish. We need better funds flowing into the system so that we can pay people appropriately, ”said Mwamba.

Justina works for a nursing service hired by Cumbria City Council. The same council signed Unison’s Charter of Ethical Nursing and promised that all nursing work commissioned should be paid for for a real living basis. Another 42 councils signed the pledge, but the office found in 37 of them advertisements for home carers offered below the subsistence level.

Although the councils fund most of the home care, they do not pay the caregivers directly. Instead, they pay to contract care from one of the thousands of care providers, who in turn pay their staff. The UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) argues that the amount passed on to caregivers is rarely enough to allow them to pass on real living wages. This was corroborated by the Bureau’s analysis, which found that the vast majority (94%) of the UK councilors were not paying a high enough average hourly rate to support a real living wage.

Colin Angel, UKHCA Political Director, said To the Bureau: “The councils’ claims to reward workers with real living wages without offering corresponding fees or conditions are empty promises and pointless publicity gimmicks.” He argued that more funds are needed from Westminster and that the councils are working more closely with it should advise service providers.

A Cumbria City Council spokesman said: “We will continue to encourage vendors to pay the real living where they are not, but we have no legal powers to force them to do so.” > This reaction has been confirmed by many other councils that are signatories to the Unison Charter. Some said they couldn’t force vendors to pay a certain amount, while one council conceded that ads were running at the wrong pay grade. Wage rates were changed following inquiries from the bureau.

Four signatory councils said their contracts required their caregivers to pay at least a real living cost, and some advertisements found by the bureau had to be for private customers. However, vendors said they don’t list roles separately, and anyone applying for a job could work with city-funded or private clients, or both.

Unison General Secretary Christina McAnea told the Bureau, “If some councils fail to meet their charter commitments, we will investigate and try to correct the mistakes.”

Even if some fell short, these 43 councils have at least recognized the need to pay decent wages to home care workers. Many others did nothing to solve the problem.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham recently expressed his support for caregivers, tweeting, “The way our country treats caregivers is a shame” and that they deserve a “massive raise”. Burnham also said he wanted all workers in Manchester to be paid real living wages.

But while Manchester City Council had previously committed to paying real living costs to home care workers, the office found 20 advertisements from care providers that were used by the council and offered less than that.

The council informed the bureau that it “contracted” home care services to pay the living wage. However, a recently released budget stated that the council would need an additional £ 2 million to maintain this pay level.

McAnea said: “Social welfare is a deeply flawed system that urgently needs reform. The blame for anything wrong must be put on the government alone. Ministers have failed to fund the system or make the necessary reforms and so now Care “is in the grip of a devastating crisis.

“As the sector is scarce, many councils are forced to contract care at bargain prices, resulting in poverty payments for highly skilled and dedicated staff.”

Apart from the impact on workers’ lives Low wages can also affect the quality of care for vulnerable people as workers burn out and leave the job quickly. In some areas the turnover rate is up to 75% and up to one in three positions is vacant. As a result, care users rely on an ever-changing array of people to deliver some of the most intimate care services imaginable.

John * has seen the impact on his mother’s quality of care. She lives in London and has multiple sclerosis (MS), schizophrenia and learning disabilities. “There is always another supervisor or there are bottlenecks … There is a system of Deliveroo-style supervisors who are sent to our home,” he said. “They have minimal wages, they work ridiculous hours for the money they have – and they don’t have the time to do a good job.

” We have very good reason to believe that many are really important Things would slip in Mommy’s care if we didn’t show up every now and then, preferably every day, ”he added. “It can all go down the drain due to scheduling issues.”

Carol Thompson, a Lancashire caregiver, told the bureau that low wages meant many of the experienced people were leaving the sector and companies were struggling to find replacements find.

“People start to look at the situation and think … they might as well work in a supermarket. You get paid more with no responsibility. I look after three adults with learning difficulties … and I am responsible for them in every way. It’s okay for us to have all of these responsibilities, but they don’t acknowledge it in pay, ”she said. Carol is also paid below the subsistence level, at £ 8.91 an hour.

Earlier this year the Bureau announced that more than 25,000 people had died in home care in England last year and nearly 3,000 during that period in Scotland.

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In the past few months, the growing crisis in warned of adult care. Executives from eight major social welfare organizations wrote to the Prime Minister that immediate funding was needed to avoid “serious risks.”

That view was confirmed in a report by the Commons’ Public Accounts Committee last month which found that “Financial cuts have resulted in most local authorities paying providers below the cost of care. This has left many providers hand-to-mouth unable to make long-term decisions that would improve care services. “

Nurses, the committee said,” deserve better treatment ” , and the health department must take action against low wages.

Since then, one health minister has resigned and another has taken his place. In his first address to the House of Commons since taking office, Sajid Javid made little mention of social welfare and only promised to stick to Matt Hancock’s reform plan when asked. By the time these long-promised reforms happen, caregivers across the country are stuck doing lifesaving work for unsustainable wages Call for “Is Work Working” was filed and was investigated along with freelance journalists Rosie Goodman, Jennifer Barton Packer and Nick Dowson. Editor: Emily WilsonInvestments Editor: Meirion JonesProduction Editor: Frankie GoodwayFact Reviewer: Alice MillikenCollaborations: Shirish KulkarniCommunity Organizer: Eve LivingstonIllustrations: Rebecca Hendin

Our coverage of Jobs is part of our Bureau Local project, which has many donors. None of our financiers have any influence on the editorial decisions or the output of the office.

Header illustration: A nurse is washing at a kitchen window. A Clap for Carers sticker is peeling off the window pane.

Maeve is an award-winning journalist specializing in homelessness and employment. She has written for the BBC, Guardian, Buzzfeed and Greenpeace

Charles works at the intersection of data journalism and software development, developing tools for collecting, analyzing and exploring data

Vicky explores local health inequalities. She previously worked for the Newsquest data exploration unit and Colchester’s Daily Gazette.

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