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Social Care Sector: Pay and Conditions

Volume 692: debated on Tuesday 13 April 2021

What steps he is taking to increase pay and improve working conditions in the social care sector. (914200)

We recognise the extraordinary commitment and compassion of social care staff, especially during the pandemic. While the Government do not have direct responsibility for pay in adult social care in England, we want care providers to reward and support their staff appropriately for the vital work they do. During the pandemic we have asked care providers to pay staff full pay when they need to self-isolate and provided over £1.4 billion of extra funding to support the cost of this and other infection control measures.

First, I imagine the whole House will join me in mourning the 364 care workers who have died in public service since covid began. Many care workers have told me that they feel undervalued by the fact that their average salary is only £17,200. I am sure there are very few Ministers who could live on that kind of salary. They particularly feel devalued when they discover that the Government are paying nine times that salary equivalent to Test and Trace consultants. It is an outrage. Will the Minister now say how she will show that these people are valued by doing three things: first, end privatisation; secondly, insist on a proper salary rise; and thirdly, ensure that a professional career structure is instituted which recognises and rewards the professionalism, talent and commitment of these essential workers?

I share the hon. Gentleman’s sorrow for the lives that have been lost among the health and social care workforce during the pandemic. I am determined that we will support and continue to support our health and social care workforce through these difficult times. One of the things that I want to achieve for our social care workforce, for whom I am truly ambitious, is that rather than doing something one-off for the pandemic, we should come up with a workforce strategy that will improve the opportunities for those working in social care to develop their careers, with a real career progression in working in that sector. That will be part of our social care reform proposals.

Despite repeated promises, the truth is that someone would be better off stacking shelves at Morrisons than caring for older or disabled people, and that is simply not good enough for our country. Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s covid infection control fund had to be used to improve pay so that staff did not have to work for more than one care home and could actually afford to self-isolate? If that is the case, will she commit to permanently enshrining these improvements across the sector to keep all care users and all care workers safe?

In response to the hon. Lady’s question about the use of the infection control fund, it was available to providers to use in a range of ways to keep their residents safe from covid, including, for instance, reducing the movement of staff between one care home and another, which is often part of the service model of how care is provided, and also, as I mentioned earlier, funding full sick pay for staff who needed to self-isolate because of covid. I am determined that as part of our social care reforms that we will be bringing forward, we will look at how best we can support the workforce.