Social care workers undervalued by £7,000 annually during pandemic

20 July 2021 3 min. read

During the pandemic, the importance of social care workers was continuously highlighted, but according to a new report, their wages undervalue their work by almost £7,000 per year. Frontline roles with similar skills in the public sector received an average of more than £24,000 annually.

Commissioned by Community Integrated Care (CIC), the study revealed a situation which the charity said was “immoral, illogical, and cannot be justified.” CIC also called for private and public intervention to help turn things around.

CIC CEO Mark Adams commented, “All evidence points to overwhelming public support for investment in the sector. This is an issue of strategy and focus, not of possibility. It is a matter of national shame that social care workers, who provide such an invaluable service to society, are in such desperate circumstances.”

Social care workers undervalued by £7,000 annually during pandemic

According to Adams, frontline workers risked their health throughout the pandemic to protect those who need their support. He added that most had done so “below the poverty line and without the basic safety net of sick pay,” in spite of their clear importance.

The research carried out by consulting firm Korn Ferry analysed social care support worker positions compared to other public sector roles, and found that the former was “significantly undervalued” by comparison. Publicly funded positions average a 39% higher take-home than private sector social care workers – who would need an increase of around £7,447 per year to catch up.

Korn Ferry found the average pay for support workers in England assisting people to live independently is around £9.05 per hour – 45p per hour below the Real Living Wage. Each year this adds up to a wage of £17,695, while roles with equivalent scope, complexity and accountability within public-funded sectors were paid £24,602 on average.

Speaking on the findings, Skills for Care CEO Oonagh Smyth asserted, “[There is a] clear case that our 1.5 million workforce are highly skilled professionals… deserve to be recognised as such as we enter a period of promised reform. We believe that policies to reform adult social care will not be successful unless they address the needs of the workforce, through a social care people plan and comprehensive workforce planning, underpinned by data and an understanding of our workforce now and in the future.”

While Oonagh added that the report “brought together a wide range of data and thinking,” however, some might assert that the report’s findings on social care workers are underestimations. Defining what ‘undervalued’ workers should be earning by pointing to another group of undervalued workers with marginally higher pay still leaves both materially undervalued.

Indeed, disputes around pay and conditions for nurses and doctors continue to rage on following the government’s mishandling of the Covid-19 crisis. In the early phases of the coronavirus outbreak, the government dragged its feet when supplying healthcare staff with personal protective equipment (PPE), despite them providing vital care to pandemic patients, at great personal risk. Meanwhile, despite the Prime Minister receiving life-saving care from such professionals, the government has since come under intense scrutiny for its meagre 1% pay-rise for NHS workers – beneath the rate of inflation – while spending £1 million per day on private consultants for the test and trace app.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson defended the government’s record though, telling the Evening Standard, “The social care sector has been an essential and valued part of the frontline response to the pandemic. We have sought to protect the workforce and those receiving social care, providing over £2 billion for the sector including infection prevention and control measures, free PPE and regular testing, and we prioritised staff for the vaccine.”