‘Pay adult social care workers at least £10.50 an hour’, warns senior council officer
One of Leeds’s most senior civil servants has given a stark warning about the recruitment crisis faced by adult social care in the city, and warned rates of pay for care workers should increase dramatically to compete with other employers.
Leeds City Council’s director of adults and health Cath Roff said many care workers who were recruited in the early days of the pandemic were now leaving to take on better-paid jobs with supermarkets and online retailers.
She called on the council to increase its pay offer for care workers to help retain staff to at least £10.50 and hour, adding that the city needs to “show its love” to care workers.
Ms Roff told a meeting of the council’s adults and health scrutiny committee: “It’s important that we do talk about social care. I have never known recruitment more severe in terms of the challenge.
“During furlough, we had quite a good experience in terms of workforce – social care was able to recruit. We, at our best, had 21 people waiting for homecare. As of last Friday, we had 186 people waiting for homecare.
“We are getting handbacks, where agencies can’t recruit enough staff to provide care. We have situations where not only support workers are going out, but the care co-ordinator and the manager are going out to deliver hands-on care.”
Ms Roff added that, when the retail and hospitality industries reopened earlier this year, care staff recruited during lockdowns went back to working in those sectors.
She said: “Those sectors have experienced recruitment challenges themselves and have boosted their rates of pay.
“To work in a supermarket now, it’s between £9.20 and £10.70 (per hour), with 10 percent of your weekly shop. If you are a low wage worker, which care workers are, that means a lot to you.
“We have Amazon advertising at £10.40, with golden hellos of anything between £1,000 and £3,000, which are denuding social care rapidly. Social care workers do not feel as valued as NHS workers, and they have had a torrid time.
“A lot of them, particularly in care homes, are traumatised by the number of deaths that they witnessed of people they do love and care about.
“As much as we are struggling to secure home care, we are struggling with care home capacity.
“It looks like there are lots of vacancies in care homes, but we are struggling to recruit staff there too.
“We want the city to show its love for social care workers and to try and attract them into social care roles. As part of that, pay is absolutely key, and it is positive that the government has put the national living wage up to £9.50 next year.
“We are talking about whether we can come forward with paying that £9.50 now, because we really need to go out with an improved offer for permanent wages, not just loyalty bonuses – I don’t think that would be enough.
“We need to pay, I think, a minimum of £10.50, in my opinion even more.
Ms Roff added that nursing homes around the UK were currently de-registering their nursing status, instead becoming residential care homes, due to the difficulty in recruiting nurses.
She claimed there was “just enough” nursing care in Leeds but warned: “There is no give on this. If we don’t have enough nursing homes, hospitals will get backed up quite rapidly.”
“I think this is going to be a really, really challenging winter.”
Richard Beecham , Local Democracy Reporting Service