On Thursdays, we’ve clapped for the NHS and key workers as they keep Britain going during lockdown. But clapping isn’t enough.
“I feel like a Roman Gladiator going into the arena on a night shift. Everyone is clapping for you, but you’re pitting yourself against a deadly disease without the proper pay and protection.” – Testimony from Tabitha, a social care worker
Millions of keyworkers; from care workers to cleaners and couriers, to hospital porters to transport workers, are facing an increased risk of disease and death at work on poverty wages.
The social care sector is at the epicentre of a pay and public health crisis:
- Half a million care sector staff are paid below the real Living Wage according to the Resolution Foundation. This equates to around 58% of care workers.
- New research from the Living Wage Foundation shows that at least 280,000 social care sector employees are in low pay and insecure work.
- Residential care homes have been particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. For example, almost one-fifth of residents at Sunnyview House in Beeston died recently following coronavirus symptoms.
Leeds Citizens member organisations are coming forward with testimony from people who work in social care and/or who are concerned about justice for carers. Their stories have focused on 3 areas (aka PPE):
- Pay – the real Living Wage and an end to poverty pay in the sector
- Protection – adequate personal protective equipment to allow them to respond to COVID-19 safely
- Equality with the NHS – better training, working conditions and support for care workers, parity of esteem for the sector with the NHS
Clapping for care workers is not enough, but it does present us with a golden opportunity.
We want to transform this awareness and sympathy into action and change.
You can help through listening and action:
1. Care Conversations
Care Conversations is a Listening Campaign from Leeds Citizens that aims to build relationships and highlight stories from the social care sector, to drive positive change.
We are looking for testimonies from care workers, care recipients and their relatives about the realities of the social care system – both the positive experiences and the challenges people are facing.
2. Care Home Actions
We are inviting our member organisations to build relationships with care homes in their local area and organise a short action to express our solidarity and appreciation for social care workers during COVID-19 while campaigning for the real Living Wage.
Churches are encouraged to conduct care home blessings. Click here for a guide to how to take part, including liturgy templates.
3. Write to your MP
The Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a series of financial announcements this summer, and again in the autumn Budget. We have been made aware that the Chancellor is actively considering guaranteeing the real Living Wage to social care workers.
If enough MPs and council leaders (who commission a lot of social care) join our campaign, it increases the pressure on the UK Government to provide the £1.4 billion extra investment needed to ensure that every care sector worker delivering publicly funded care can be paid at least the real Living Wage of £9.30 per hour (£10.75 in London).