Leaving out social care staff and nurses from public sector pay rises matter of ‘national shame’

Social care providers have accused the Government of “sidestepping” the issue of low pay for care staff, while professions covered by the public sector pay rise warned of a blow to morale and struggles retaining staff.

Care associations called for action to replace “lip service”, following a gruelling few months of coronavirus during which frontline care staff have “put themselves in harm’s way”.

The above-inflation pay rise announced by the Chancellor on Tuesday will see almost 900,000 public sectors workers benefit, including teachers and doctors, according to the Treasury.

It also includes police, prison officers, National Crime Agency staff, members of the judiciary, armed forces and senior civil servants, but not nurses and healthcare assistants.

These roles are covered by a separate three-year pay deal agreed in 2018 by the NHS staff council.

The NHS pay review body, which provides the Government with recommendations on the remuneration of NHS staff paid under the Agenda for Change scheme, has not been asked to make any recommendations while this agreement remains in place.

The Institute for Public Policy Research think tank said not including nurses and carers was “unforgivable” and an “unjustifiable snub”.

Dame Donna Kinnair, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said it is not acceptable to make nurses wait a year, adding: “In this year, of all years, it is time to value these professionals and begin to fill the tens of thousands of vacant posts.”

But even for junior doctors, the 2% pay rise will mean the majority have seen their wages fall by between £500 and £850 in comparison to senior colleagues in just two years, the HCSA said.

The hospital doctors’ union said it will “land a damaging psychological blow on England’s lowest-paid doctors”.

And education unions warned that more experienced teachers may not stay in the profession after the Government said long-serving staff would receive lower rises.

Morale in the social care workforce will also be damaged by the announcement, with one care provider group calling it the latest “kick in the teeth”.

Chief executive of Care England, Professor Martin Green, said: “These past few months have been an incredibly challenging time for our NHS and social care and it is imperative that frontline staff are recognised and rewarded as such.

“We need to ensure that lip service is replaced by action in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the adult social care sector.”

Vic Rayner, executive director at the National Care Forum, which represents 120 of the UK’s social care charities, said: “It is unacceptable for the Government to sidestep the issue around social care workers’ pay in today’s announcement.”

The Independent Care Group, which represents providers in York and north Yorkshire, welcomed the pay rises but said social care being left out again was “shocking”.

Chairman Mike Padgham told the PA news agency: “They have put themselves in harm’s way, they deserve something, and this is a kick in the teeth again, about being forgotten yet again, and it beggars belief in that perspective.

“I hope the Government will rethink and make sure social care staff get due attention – not just praise, but something in their pay packets as well.”

He said independent providers are between a rock and a hard place – if they raise their staff’s wages, they will be forced to charge more to local authorities which are “not funded properly”.

Mark Adams (pictured), chief executive of the social care charity Community Integrated Care, said it is a matter of “national shame” that social care workers have been on the frontline on minimum wage salaries.

He said: “Whilst investment in public sector workers is clearly welcome, it is bitterly disappointing that social care remains overlooked and ignored by Government.

“The persistent restrictions on social care funding means that this is by default a largely minimum wage sector.”

Unions also called for more support, with Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea saying care workers “deserve nothing less than a complete overhaul of their sector”.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added that many public sector workers such as job centre staff and local government employees “deserve a decent pay settlement too”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “These past few months have been an incredibly challenging time for our NHS, and the resolve, professionalism and dedication of staff has been on show throughout.

“We are able to accept the recommendations of the independent pay review body for dentists and doctors.”

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