Over the past few weeks, there has been considerable media coverage of the Government's NHS pay deal and the strong feeling that it doesn't reflect the fantastic contribution made by so many health care staff through the Covid-19 pandemic. When I hear this and calls for a multi-year pay deal, it reminds me that social care is still the poor relation and without the same public support given to the NHS.
There is no national pay deal or framework for social care staff and no national guidelines on what a care worker should be paid. Much of our social care is delivered by companies and charities delivering services on behalf of public authorities who have a statutory duty to provide that care.
The absence of a minimum pay framework means those services are commissioned without reference to a basic pay framework, let alone taking into account annual uplifts providers need in order to give their staff inflationary rises.
The recent good news that senior support workers were being added to the list of shortage occupations added to the frustration on this. One charitable provider we work with highlighted how the immigration rules changes won't help them at all - they still can't afford to pay the pay threshold set by the Government to a senior support worker under the immigration rules to deliver the statutory services they are contracted to provide.
Pay for social care staff will be back in the spotlight this Friday with the long-awaited decision in the Mencap case published. If Mencap are successful, it may be seen by many as a poor reflection on the value placed in social care staff.
The reality is the case is about the interpretation of legislation and the Government's intentions when the legislation was drafted, not the worth of the individuals carrying out sleep-ins. Providers who operated sleep-ins at less than the National Minimum Wage did so because the Government guidance said they could and that was all they were funded to pay.
The real problem is that the social care system does not have the investment it needs and there is no framework for pay. We consider, whatever the outcome of the Mencap case, a job evaluation exercise should be carried out comparing roles within the NHS with typical social care roles so a new national pay benchmark can be established.
Public authorities should then have a clear obligation to provide sufficient funding for these benchmark pay scales to be delivered whenever they are commissioning services. This will undoubtedly mean a significant increase in their social care budgets is required.
The link here sets out some further thoughts as to what providers may need to do depending on the Supreme Court's decision on Friday, but whatever the outcome it won't resolve the historic treatment of social care as a poor relation to the NHS.
"Ministers should take this pay cut off the table and start talks with staff on a multi-year pay deal that reflects their worth and address recruitment and retention in the NHS."