Council care worker pay ‘disgraceful’ but unlikely to improve soon

Improving wages “would have a serious effect on the budget”, councillors heard
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Carers protesting in Walthamstow town centre last month (credit: CASWO)
Carers protesting in Walthamstow town centre last month (credit: CASWO)

The low wage paid to Waltham Forest Council’s social care workers is “hugely disgraceful” but unlikely to improve due to budget concerns.

Last week, the council’s growth scrutiny committee received a report explaining that “low pay” and a lack of opportunities were creating a shortage of carers for the elderly and vulnerable.

Councillors heard that one quarter of care workers across east London left their jobs last year, leaving one out of every ten jobs unfilled.

Simon Miller, the council’s cabinet member for economic growth and housing development, said: “It’s hugely disgraceful… just how badly carers are being treated. We need to start to think about real improvements.

“As a borough, we need to do all we can to promise a London Living Wage, rather than treating care workers like people we ship in, treat badly and ship out.”

Read more: Carers in crisis after free parking ends

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However, Cllr Richard Sweden, who chairs the adult social care scrutiny committee, said the council’s wages are unlikely to improve soon because of the “serious effect” that would have on its budget.

He said: “It’s a problem because adult social care takes 50% of discretionary spending, any changes would have a serious effect on the council’s finances.”

The council’s most up-to-date budget shows it has gone £5.8million over its £72m budget for adult social care this year.  

The majority of the council’s 250 social care workers are female, black and aged between 45 and 64. 

Although no plan was put before the committee to improve pay for care workers, the council’s head of skills Alan Ollier-Thompson was optimistic about a Health Careers Hub, being funded by the Mayor of London.

The online hub will aim to encourage 750 people from under-represented groups to enter the health professions.

The NHS Clinical Commissioning Group for the entirety of North East London said the hub was approved in January.

According to a leaflet published online, it is due to be launched in April.

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