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Carol's story: Meet the carers campaigning for a real Living Wage for Social Care

Carol's story: Meet the carers campaigning for a real Living Wage

How can we be expected to care for others, when we aren't paid enough to care for ourselves?

Three-quarters of social care workers earn less than the real living wage. While the public took to their doorsteps to clap for key workers, we heard from social care workers who risked their lives but could not meet their everyday needs, even skipping meals to get by.

Now people across the care industry and civil society are saying enough is enough.

On the 30th March 2022, Citizens across the UK are taking action in Parliament Square to call on the Government to introduce a real Living Wage for all care workers. Carol Thompson is one of the Citizens leaders and care workers leading the national call for a fair day's pay.

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We asked Carol to share why she is joining the action, and why providing the real Living Wage for Social Care is so much.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your experience of working in the care sector?

My name is Carol Thompson and I am a support worker for adults with learning disabilities. I have been a support worker for 15 years. I was employed by the NHS but got TUPED (Transfer of Undertakings) over to private care.

Since then, our pay and conditions have drastically reduced. This is even though I am often doing lone work, which means taking soul responsibility on long shifts (sometimes up to 24 hours) of three adults. This involves supporting every aspect of their lives, including administration of medication, finances, personal care and more. And for this we only receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) on all shifts, including weekends.

Why should people care about care workers being paid the real Living Wage?

We are underpaid, undervalued and unrecognised for all we do. We truly should have parity with the NHS. This is made worse by the fact that receiving fair pay or not often comes down to a postcode lottery because of the way the care sector is funded. For example, I have some colleagues in the same company in a different region who are now earning the real Living Wage due to campaigning with Citizens UK and trade unions. But, because I live where I do, my pay is still far too low to live on.

Staff are being driven into poverty and are having to use food banks to make ends meet. This is even though we have continuously worked through the pandemic. We were promised that the Covid situation wouldn't affect our pay, yet many colleagues, myself included, have had to use our Annual Leave allowance to cover time off in isolation, because the statutory sick pay we would otherwise receive for missing shifts due to illness isn't enough to get by on. 

We deserve to be recognised for all we have done and we deserve to be paid - at a minimum - the real Living Wage to reflect the responsibilities we undertake daily. We shouldn't have to be losing our holiday time and faced with the knock-on effects of this for our health and our families.

We also need decent wages to keep staff in the profession as across the industry they are being faced with having to leave for other jobs. Several of my former colleagues were in this situation and it's something I had to seriously consider for myself. We need better pay to survive.

What does campaigning for a real Living Wage for care workers mean to you?

I started campaigning on this issue with Greater Manchester a couple of years ago, partly because we had our sleep pay cut during the pandemic. That was bad enough so at first I was just campaigning for the sleep pay back, but then for the real Living Wage. I am joining the national action on 30 March, calling on MPs to introduce the real Living Wage for the whole social care sector across the UK, because I believe it is time care workers are given the support and respect we are due.

I am telling my story in the hope that it helps encourage other care workers to speak up, and because enough is enough. Please don't just clap for carers. We need a real Living Wage.

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Posted by Sylvie Pope on 25 Mar, 2022

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