Union anger over end of Covid-related funding scheme for care workers

Unions are warning that care workers are set to be plunged back into “sick pay poverty” because of the ending of a scheme set up during the pandemic.

Under the scheme care providers could receive funding from the Government to provide full pay for any Covid-related absence.

Unions responded with anger to a Government announcement confirming the funding will end.

Unison’s head of social care Gavin Edwards (pictured) said: “Scrapping the financial support for sick pay in care, just as the devastating cost-of-living crisis intensifies and Covid rates rise, is negligent and morally wrong.

“Care workers will be shocked and dismayed by the Government’s decision. For such a vital financial lifeline to be cut for low-paid staff trying to protect vulnerable people is beyond belief.

“With care job vacancies already eye-wateringly high, the Government should be encouraging and rewarding staff for doing the right thing by isolating, not making it impossible for them to put food on the table.

“Workers are already turning to food banks as budgets are stretched to breaking point.

“Ministers must immediately reinstate the infection control fund and make it mandatory for care employers to pay proper sick pay. Anything less will drive more staff out of the sector and put lives and livelihoods at risk.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are incredibly proud of all our health and care staff and recognise their extraordinary commitment.

“The vast majority of care workers are employed by private sector providers who determine their pay, terms and conditions of employment.

“All care providers should support good health and safety practice, including encouraging staff staying away from the workplace when there would be a health risk to those in their care, as they would have done before the pandemic.

“To address workforce pressures we have put in place a range of measures including our national recruitment campaign, Made with Care, and £500 million to develop and support the workforce over the next three years.”

Wes Streeting, the shadow secretary of state for health and social care, said: “Care workers are already underpaid, and now they face further insecurity during the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

“Two years into the pandemic, the Conservatives still don’t understand that most people can’t afford to miss work without sick pay.

“This is an appalling way to treat care workers and could cause many to leave social care, which already lacks enough staff to provide decent care. This also runs the risk of sick staff attending work to get paid, putting care home residents at risk.”

GMB national officer Rachel Harrison said: “GMB has long campaigned for sick pay to be a contractual right for all care workers.

“Workers forced on to poverty statutory sick pay rates are left with the dilemma of choosing between going to work poorly or staying home and not being able to put food on the table.

“The lack of sick pay in social care is one of the biggest infection risks there can be.

“With Covid very much still part of life, removing sick pay for Covid isolation just puts people at risk. It’s about time our care workers were valued.”

The GMB warned that care workers are set to be plunged back into “sick pay poverty”.

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