Why you’re better off being a cleaner than a care worker

This content relates to the following topics:

Does the latest data on the social care workforce offer much optimism for the sector? In a word, no. The trends are largely a continuation of last year’s – a slowing almost to a standstill of the growth in jobs, an increasing vacancy rate and a high turnover rate.

It is true that there has been a 27p an hour increase in pay for care workers, driven by the rise in the national living wage, but this rise is pushing up pay in other sectors even faster, making social care less competitive. The result is that in 2012/13 shopworkers and cleaners were paid less than care workers but in 2018/19 they were paid more. The data does not tell us specifically about the pay of assistants to butchers, bakers and candlestick makers but it seems likely that they would now also be better paid than care workers. Kitchen staff and hairdressers are catching up.

'The data does not tell us specifically about the pay of assistants to butchers, bakers and candlestick makers but it seems likely that they would now also be better paid than care workers.'

Can anything be done? The Department for Health and Social Care is now running the second phase of its recruitment campaign for adult social care (subtly rebranded from ‘Every day is different’ to ‘When you care, every day makes a difference’.) The first phase of the campaign had some positive results. Research conducted in advance of that phase showed that although one in five people said that they had at least considered applying for an adult social care job in the previous year, only 1 in 25 of those people had gone on to do so. That was in part because only 12 per cent of people thought there were local jobs available in the sector – a surprising perception given that there are 122,000 vacancies at any one time across England. So one of the objectives in the first phase of the campaign was to make more people aware of those vacant roles, and it had success in that: searches for care jobs on the Department of Work and Pension’s ‘Find a job’ website, for example, nearly doubled. However, it is hard to quantify the difference this has made to recruitment. While one in four care staff in a small, self-selective survey said they had seen an increase in enquiries, applications and positions filled during the campaign period, more comprehensive evidence is needed to confirm this.

 

'Only much wider reform, based around sustainable improvement in the sector’s funding, can ensure that social care and its users have the workforce they need and deserve.'

The campaign research also demonstrated the barriers it will have to overcome. For example, a key problem is that only 4 in 10 people think social care offers career progression. Unfortunately, if we look at pay levels as a measure of progression, they are right – and the situation is worsening. On average, care workers with more than five years’ experience earn just 15p more an hour than those with less than one year’s experience, down from 37p more in 2013. That is because employers, faced with local authorities aiming to hold down the rates they pay for care at a time when the living wage has been pushing up staff costs, have responded by compressing pay. Last year, the top earning 10 per cent of care workers received a 3.6 per cent real-terms pay increase while the bottom earning 10 per cent received 9.4 per cent. Experience is counting for less and less in care workers’ pay packets.

So prospective care workers are right to worry about career progression, certainly in terms of pay. Who would blame them if they took the experience, knowledge and skills they have developed to the higher pay on offer as a healthcare assistant in their local hospital? No advertising campaign alone can address this and other deep-rooted issues in the social care workforce. Only much wider reform, based around sustainable improvement in the sector’s funding, can ensure that social care and its users have the workforce they need and deserve.

Health and care explained

Join us at our award-winning Health and care explained event to learn about the system, the challenges for the future of health care and current plans to address them.

Find out more

Comments

Jacqueline Alderson

Position
Cleaner,
Organisation
Deep blue cleaning
Comment date
25 March 2020

Obviously I'm worried like half the world is my partner to is a key worker feeling calor gas bottles nightly I have a asthmatic son whon is 15, and a 24 year old whom is need of a heart and lung transplant.ive protected him all my life. I hate having to go to work and contracting the covid 19 he has isolated himself in his room but we are all still in a shared house.its absolutely heartbreaking I also have 3 older children that have left home and have family to.

Jacqueline Alderson

Position
Cleaner,
Organisation
Deep blue cleaning
Comment date
25 March 2020

I feel people with siblings that have severe underlining health conditions should not go into work but to protect there children if I had somewhere to stay instead of my putting my children at risk I would.

Tanis

Position
Hairdresser in a care home,
Comment date
15 April 2020

I work in a care home 12 hours a week doing hair they say I am a key worker and have to work although government have said all hairdressers not to work I’m employed by the care home I don’t get sick pay what are my rights please

rshepard

Position
Digital Communications Assistant,
Organisation
The King's Fund
Comment date
15 April 2020

Hi Tanis,
I've had a look into this for you and while we're not the best organisation to advise on this, I would suggest getting in touch with Citizen's Advice (https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/), who should be able to help.

They have posted lots of coronavirus advice, including Worried about working?
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-youre-worried-abo…

Or if you need more clarification you can try contacting them directly:
https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/contact-us/contac…

If you are part of a Trade Union, I would also recommend getting in touch with them.

I do hope this is helpful, and thank you for all your work in this time of crisis.

All the best,

Becca

Add your comment