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Care Providers: It’s time to pay a real Living Wage

Nigel Devine – Owner and Director of supported living company and Living Wage Champion Orbis Support – highlights the benefits of being a Living Wage Employer on staff, clients and the business itself, and makes a moral case for paying the real Living Wage in the social care sector.

The pandemic has made it clear society relies on the hard work of care workers. Despite this, social care remains one of the lowest paying sectors in the UK. In England alone, 73% of care workers are being paid less than the real Living Wage. Care workers are undervalued and underpaid, looking after the most at-risk people in our society whilst themselves being at dire risk of in-work poverty.

Simply put, care workers are owed a real Living Wage.

Orbis Support accredited as a Living Wage Employer in 2019 and paying the real Living Wage rates has ensured that we are not afflicted by the problems of staff retention that riddle the social care sector. Whilst the sector overall experiences turnover rates as high as 31%, we rarely lose members of our team. [1] That shouldn’t be surprising – when staff are benefitting from being paid the real Living Wage, they feel valued, able to afford basic joys of life, and appreciated for their extraordinary efforts. In other words, it means they want to stick around.

As a care company, we at Orbis Support know that caring for our clients is not separate to caring for our staff. Our clients have complex needs, and consistency is vital. It is best for them to build relationships with their carers over long periods of time, and feel reassured that the same person or team of people are there for them. Thus, a high staff turnover rate is not only costly for the business but also detrimental to our clients. Our staff are our most prized asset - when we treat them well, we all reap the benefits.

Another way that paying the Living Wage pays for itself is through the quality of care it supports. When revenue does not have to be constantly spent on hiring and training new employees, it can be reinvested into improving the quality of care. Paying the Living Wage rate has taken away our employees’ financial strain, making room for a sole focus on providing excellent quality care. Our staff work tirelessly. They undoubtedly deserve to live in dignity and be afforded a sense of security for their efforts. Paying a wage that can cover the cost of everyday needs is a surefire way to ensure our staff get that.

During the first lockdown, the nation came out onto the streets to recognise the heroism of carers like ours in the Clap for Key Workers. As moving as that gesture was, clapping doesn’t pay the bills. Fellow employers, we have the power to recognise the heroism of carers meaningfully. It’s only right that we all start paying a real Living Wage.

The Living Wage Foundation has launched a Social Care Toolkit providing guidance for adult social care providers and local authorities commissioning care who wish to pay their workers the real Living Wage. Help us do right by workers and families and become a Living Wage Employer today.

[1] Skills for Care, 'The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England', (October 2020)

24th September 2021
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