Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward Debate

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Department: Department of Health and Social Care

Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward

Alex Davies-Jones Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones (Pontypridd) (Lab)
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I rise to speak on behalf of the 434 residents in the Pontypridd constituency who have signed the petitions relating to the recognition and reward of health and social care workers. It is clear that the creation of the NHS is undoubtedly the Labour party’s greatest ever achievement and one which I will always personally champion. I hope colleagues on all Benches will indulge me as I also use today’s debate to celebrate the 20th birthday of NHS Direct Wales, which is taking place this week.

It is all too easy to reduce the NHS workforce to doctors and nurses, but given that there are around 400 different job roles in our NHS, it is important that all NHS staff are given the credit they deserve for their incredible work all year round. Among many others, the porters, cleaners, caterers, healthcare assistants, allied health professionals and the many invaluable volunteers who give up their free time truly are the unsung heroes of our NHS. The coronavirus pandemic has provided a unique opportunity to truly show our thanks and appreciation. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not sure that a handclap or a medal quite cuts it. I wonder whether the Minister would be satisfied with a handclap or a pat on the back instead of receiving her additional ministerial salary—something tells me the answer is no.

Naturally, as a proud Welsh valleys woman, it would be wrong—rude, even—for me not to take the opportunity today to highlight how different things are across the border thanks to the fantastic Welsh Labour Government. As my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) said, the Welsh Labour Government are leading the way in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. They say that where Wales leads, England follows, and I am more than inclined to agree.

Thanks to the Welsh Labour Government, social care and domiciliary care workers in Wales, including agency workers, and support staff in care homes such as kitchen workers and cleaners will soon receive a diolch or thank-you payment of up to £500—a payment that will be available to 64,600 care home workers and domiciliary care workers throughout Wales. That comes after the Welsh Labour Government have already pledged to commit an incredible £40 million of extra funding for adult social care services, to help meet the extra costs associated with the response to the pandemic.

Clearly, that payment is a reward in recognition of the unprecedented circumstances and strain that have been placed on all our NHS staff across the Union, from Pontypridd in south Wales to Perth in Scotland. It is even clearer to me that this payment should be exempt from income tax and national insurance contributions—something that the Welsh Labour First Minister and colleagues in the House have been calling for. So far, Her Majesty’s Treasury has point-blank refused—talk about a kick in the teeth for workers who have literally put their lives on the line to keep us all safe. NHS workers in Pontypridd and throughout Wales deserve better.

Colleagues will be aware that, thanks to another fantastic Labour-led campaign, the Prime Minister was forced to U-turn again this week. He is running in circles. If the Minister needs any information on Wales and how we can best tackle the coronavirus pandemic, I am more than happy to offer my services; she knows where to find me. I hope that where Wales leads, England will follow.

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Jamie Wallis Portrait Dr Jamie Wallis (Bridgend) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak in this debate on behalf of the many vital careworkers and NHS staff in my constituency. I therefore begin by putting on record, on behalf of everybody in Bridgend, our sincere and heartfelt thanks for everything carers and NHS staff are doing. They do a fantastic job, delivering world-class care. Even with increasing pressures due to, among other things, an ageing population and changing public expectations, they work incredibly hard, always putting patients first and keeping them safe while providing the high-quality care we have all come to expect.

Alex Davies-Jones Portrait Alex Davies-Jones
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Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in order to reward and recognise these careworkers in Wales, the £500 money that has been given to them by the Welsh Labour Government should be exempt from tax and national insurance by the UK Tory Government?

Jamie Wallis Portrait Dr Wallis
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I agree with the hon. Lady, and I have been talking to Her Majesty’s Treasury about it. I was disappointed in the response that I got from Welsh Labour Ministers when a perfectly reasonable suggestion was put forward on how careworkers could receive the net amount of £500; I would be happy to forward that correspondence to her after this debate.

It is vital that we continue to break down some of the long-standing barriers between health and social care. We have learnt the importance of both of these sectors over the past few months, and our appreciation must go equally to all carers. They play a crucial role in managing the complex care needs of thousands of people every single day. Even with the additional risks they take, they continue to work so hard to support the people we all care about in these unprecedented times.

If there is some positivity to hopefully come out of this horrendous time, it is how it has highlighted to us all that the social care sector does so much. We are now all well aware that, without them, our communities and our loved ones would suffer. I have received many tributes to our carers. Indeed, the Porthcawl male voice choir, of which I am vice chair—not a participant, the House will be pleased to know—have produced a wonderfully emotional and heartfelt video to say thank you, and I encourage others to watch it. It bears a fitting strength of feeling, recognising how proud we are of our carers during this global crisis.

I was also delighted to see the personal message that Ant and Dec sent to all the care staff in the Princess of Wales Hospital, and I will end with their words:

“We just wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work you're doing every day on behalf of the whole country, and we would like to send you lots and lots of love. Keep up the good work.”