People working in frontline social care roles are undervalued by as much as 39% – nearly £7,000 per year – in comparison to peers in equivalent positions in other publicly funded sectors.
With the care sector losing more than a third of its employees every year and having 112,000 vacancies presently, a groundbreaking report by one of the UK’s biggest social care charities has found.
Community Integrated Care commissioned independent analysis of frontline support worker roles and its report, Unfair To Care, provides in-depth evidence that breaks the stereotype that social care is a “low-skilled” sector.
This research, by job evaluation experts Korn Ferry, has led to calls for the government to provide an immediate and fair pay rise to social care workers and deliver a robust social care sector people plan, which ensures long-term parity of pay with other public funded sectors.
The average pay for support workers in England who assist people to live independently in the community is £17,695 or £9.05 per hour – 45p per hour below the Real Living Wage.
Social care sector
Korn Ferry analysed of the job role, objectively assessing its true value across sectors. Their research found that roles with “equivalent scope, complexity and accountability within other public funded sectors” are, on average, paid at £24,602.
This pay gap is even greater in the care sector’s close counterpart – the NHS. The average take-home pay for equivalent jobs in the NHS is £25,142, meaning that many social care workers would need a 42% pay rise, an additional £7,447, to match their NHS peers.
Mark Adams, CEO of Community Integrated Care (CIC), said: “The moral case for investment in social care and its workforce has, sadly, been ignored for years. This research now provides cold hard facts, which surely cannot be ignored by the government.”
He added that the pay disparity is “immoral, illogical, and cannot be justified.”
“This is a significant challenge, but it can be fixed – firstly, by recognising the £46bn contribution that social care makes to the UK economy annually, and also delivering progressive reforms that improve efficiency and quality of life through delivering joined-up services, reducing the burden on family carers and embracing innovations. All evidence points to overwhelming public support for investment in the sector. This is an issue of strategy and focus, not of possibility.”
The charity said the analysis demonstrates that the role of social care workers has changed beyond recognition in the past decade, as the sector increasingly supports people with highly complex health and care needs.
CIC said the data “demolishes the crude assessment” by home secretary Priti Patel that social care is a “low-skilled” sector. It demonstrates that support workers frequently have the same or a greater level of skill and accountability as professions such as healthcare assistants, police community support officers, and senior teaching assistants.
It is appalling that many of society’s most valued workers are experiencing the devastating consequences of poverty, from the risk of homelessness to avoidable mental health challenges. So long as people can access easier and less responsible work for more money, it will be an impossibility to close the recruitment gap in the sector” – Teresa Exelby, chief people officer
Oonagh Smyth, CEO of Skills for Care, said: “Community Integrated Care have brought together a wide range of data and thinking, including from our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set, to make the clear case that our 1.5 million workforce are highly skilled professionals, who deserve to be recognised as such as we enter a period of promised reform.”
Phil Hope, co-chair of the Future Social Care Coalition and a former care minister, said: “It cannot be right that people in social care positions are so vastly underpaid in comparison to their equivalents in other public funded sectors, despite the significant skill and accountability of their roles.”
“It is time for the government to respect, reward and regulate, to support all those working on the ‘forgotten frontline’. It has never been clearer that they warrant and deserve a fair deal.”
Teresa Exelby, chief people officer at Community Integrated Care, added: “It is appalling that many of society’s most valued workers are experiencing the devastating consequences of poverty, from the risk of homelessness to avoidable mental health challenges. So long as people can access easier and less responsible work for more money, it will be an impossibility to close the recruitment gap in the sector.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement that government has sought to protect the workforce and those receiving social care by providing more than £2bn for the sector during the pandemic, including infection prevention and control measures and PPE.
“We are committed to the sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and, as set out in the Queen’s Speech, we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure every person receives the care they need, provided with the dignity they deserve,” it added.