Frontline home care professionals in Wales are calling for a controversial £30 registration fee to be waived this year.
The voluntary scheme, administered by Social Care Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government, became compulsory in the midst of the pandemic in April last year, and the social care staff who signed up say they got nothing in return.
Under new rules, domiciliary care workers now have to join the national online register and are required to pay the annual fee.
According to Care Forum Wales (CFW) council member Keri Llewellyn, who is the lead on domiciliary care, it was “unfair” to expect frontline care workers to pay when they had faced “increasing practical and emotional pressures” as a result of the Covid crisis.
Some care workers had been quick off the mark and already registered voluntarily with the scheme. After starting at £20 when the scheme was launched, the fee went up to £25 last year and now it’s gone up to £30.
Llewellyn, who is also managing director of the Barry-based care group All Care, said: “This means some workers will have unfairly paid more than others and due to the current high-pressure environment they have received very little in return for their £30.
“As a gesture of good faith, the registration fee should be waived for this year and the fees for the scheme re-set to start again from a more level playing field in April 2022.”
She continued: “I am completely supportive of the fact that there needs to be a professional register of domiciliary care workers to recognise their unique skills and responsibilities.
“Moves to improve the professionalisation of our sector boost the self-esteem of carers and inspire public safety and confidence are to be welcomed.
“But what we do not want is to put barriers in the way of our ability to recruit high standard new employees. This register was conceived with good intentions but currently the fees structure has caused discontent.”
The registration fees finance the overall management of the professional register. But Llewellyn said she had received “valid complaints” from some of her own company’s domiciliary care workers that in April 2020 they had paid the registration fee and received little in return.
She added: “With the priorities of the pandemic taking over all our focus, those who registered early have up to now seen very little benefit in the form of improvements in their working terms and conditions for instance or practical attempts to shine a brighter light on the importance of their role in society.
“I completely understand why some workers are now disgruntled that they are being asked to pay £30 just to have their names added to a list. It may not seem a lot of money to some but to those care workers at the lower end of the wages spectrum it is a big chunk out of their household budget for little gain.”
Mary Wimbury, the chief executive of Care Forum Wales, said the registration fee could potentially discourage people from working in the care sector, at a time when many families’ domestic finances are in a precarious state.
“I believe that they could even cause some existing fully trained, qualified and vastly experienced workers to consider switching,” she added.
“Waiving these fees as a one-off gesture for a year will be seen to be doing the right thing and supporting our valued domiciliary care workers when they most need a lift up.
“Following the vaccines roll out the pandemic situation is improving, but the fact is the crisis is not yet over. A simple gesture like this would help show our care workers that we appreciate all they have done and are continuing to do for our local communities.”