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

Munira Wilson Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department of Health and Social Care
Dr Jamie Wallis Portrait Dr Wallis - Hansard
25 Jun 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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.”

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD) - Hansard

All sides of the House have rightly recognised the immense sacrifice and service to this country made by our health and care workforces, but it is now time to put our money where our mouths are and start to recognise and reward those staff. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches have argued through this crisis for a package of frontline support, including something akin to the deployment allowance given to the military frontline. We should have a frontline service award of a daily allowance during this crisis, but beyond that, this is not the time for a pay freeze. Negotiations on public sector pay must reflect the service and sacrifice that many on the frontline have made for us and our loved ones.

In social care, many do not work in the public sector. Two million people in care jobs are largely on the minimum wage. Half are on zero-hours contracts, yet they are undertaking highly skilled work, taking care of the most vulnerable and providing intimate care. They are often not paid benefits or for travel time, which can be significant in London. It is possible to earn more money stacking shelves in Tesco. It is important to recognise that they have very few career prospects and little training. The pay differential between careworkers with less than a year of experience and those with more than 20 years’ experience has now reduced to just 15p an hour. That is because of the funding crisis in social care, which is keeping those wages down. The case for ensuring that our careworkers are at the very least paid the real living wage is overwhelming and a moral imperative.

In the longer term, to tackle the workforce crisis and put social care on an equal footing with the NHS, pay scales must be reviewed and ideally aligned with the NHS, but that obviously needs to go hand in hand with tackling the long-term funding crisis in social care. Those reforms are well overdue.

We know there is a huge number of migrant workers in social care and in the NHS. The figure is one in seven in the NHS and one in six in the care workforce. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches have argued through the crisis that the cruel policy of no recourse to public funds must be suspended. That is particularly relevant for those on the frontline who may be reticent to take time off or self-isolate because they are only eligible for statutory sick pay, which, frankly, is not enough to live on. A number of other benefits are not available to them, but, most importantly, when people have put their lives on the line for us and our loved ones, we must recognise those workers by granting them indefinite leave to remain. A visa extension is not enough. It is not enough to just take their service and say, “Bye bye. Thank you very much.” We have a moral responsibility to allow them to stay.

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con) - Hansard
25 Jun 2020, 12:05 a.m.

I hope you will join me, Mr Speaker, in paying tribute to the incredible work of careworkers across Beaconsfield. In Denham Manor, Lent Rise House and Chiltern House in Gerrards Cross, countless hours and much time has been spent. They have been the real heroes in Bucks, and I pay tribute to them, but I also want to look at how we distribute funding for our careworkers.

We have always looked at adult social care as being on the bottom tier of the ladder in terms of the NHS funding allocation, and I would like to see it brought up to the top. I would like to see it given equal footing with the NHS to allow for career progression and for the statutory duty that councils now have to take on. That should be reflected in the money that is allocated to councils to carry out their care responsibilities.

We have gotten through this crisis, and I pay tribute to my local council and Bucks clinical commissioning group, but we need to look at how we can give careworkers the respect and the pay that they deserve as we move forward. The money comes from the same pot, but we need to look at how it is allocated. I hope the Minister will join me in looking at how we can help give people in the care sector career progression, the pay they deserve and respect for the jobs that they hold.