Care leaders are calling on the government to award and fund a £1,000 bonus over the winter period for social care workers in England.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said the bonus would recognise the loyalty and dedication of care workers through the Covid-19 pandemic and would help stem the loss of skilled and experienced staff to other types of work.
The call for comes in response to reports from directors across England of care services struggling or breaking down because of staff shortages.
Stephen Chandler, ADASS president, said: “We are facing a perfect storm with staff quitting, family carers under immense strain, the NHS struggling, care providers going out of business and people being left without care and support.
“Courageous and compassionate people working in social care are quitting faster than they can be recruited and people who need support to live decent lives are waiting longer for help and getting less of it.”
He continued: “Paying a £1,000 bonus to care workers over the winter would show that we prize their skills and dedication as a society. It would send a strong signal to people that care work is a career that is respected and is going to be properly rewarded in future. Unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK, care workers in England have not been paid any government bonus for working through the pandemic.”
There are about 1.5 million jobs in social care in England, but at least 105,000 of them are vacant, according to Skills for Care.
ADASS said the cost of a one-off £1,000 bonus would therefore be about £1.4bn gross, but the Treasury would recoup tax and national insurance.
Responding to the calls for a winter bonus, trade union GMB described it as a “quick fix” that won’t work in the long term.
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer, said: “It’s right care workers’ immense efforts during the pandemic are rewarded – and that something is done to stop the looming staffing catastrophe.
“But a one-off Christmas bonus isn’t the answer – it’s a quick fix and it won’t work in the long term.
“Care workers are highly skilled professionals, should be treated and paid as such. They deserve at least the average salary in the UK – £15 an hour, no less.”
Chandler explained that in the longer term, ADASS wants to see a minimum social care wage that is above the national living wage, has parity with NHS pay and clear progression and development.
“But we need recognition over the coming months of the brilliant job that care workers do if we are to keep them and get through what is going to be a very difficult winter,” he stressed.
“We have to ensure that no one goes without vital care and support. Without action now, the pressures on the NHS and family carers will grow and there is a real risk of people suffering indignity and harm and dying alone.”