Exploitation, Low Pay Causing Poverty among UK Care Workers, TUC Finds

Exploitation, Low Pay Causing Poverty among UK Care Workers, TUC Finds

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Chronic under-investment, exploitation and low pay is leading to widespread poverty among workers in the care sector, according to damning research from the Trades Union Congress.

As it publishes its first workforce blueprint for the care economy, the TUC argues that the “Cinderella sectors” of social care and childcare need urgent investment to head off a demographic timebomb, The Guardian reported.

Across the UK, care workers are earning below the real living wage – £10.90 an hour outside London and £11.95 in the capital – while more than a quarter of children with a parent working in social care are growing up in poverty, according to the TUC research.

The TUC’s strategy for the care workforce report found:

More than three in five (62%) childcare workers and social care workers earn less than the real living wage.

Social care workers earn only about 65% of the median salary for all employees (£21,500 a year compared with £33,000).

Childcare workers earn only 56% of the median salary for all employees £)18,400(.

The TUC’s General Secretary, Paul Nowak, said care workers played a vital but undervalued role in society, adding that high-quality care would only be possible “if jobs in care are decent and paid well enough to attract and keep the right people”.

“Childcare and social care must stop being Cinderella sectors,” he said, adding, “Demand for care is rising. Caring is skilled work, and the – overwhelmingly female – workforce deserves decent pay and conditions.”

The TUC is calling for the urgent introduction of better career paths, sick pay, a £15-an-hour minimum wage for childcare and social care workers, and an end to zero-hours contracts, which are used for about a quarter of adult social care workers in England.

It has called for “national partnership forums” for ministers, unions, employers and commissioners to share ideas to tackle the care crisis and establish minimum levels on pay, conditions and training.

The report says “a long-term and chronic under-investment in care services” has led to gaping holes in the social safety net, which has been exacerbated by “fragmentation and privatization of care”.

In spring, more than half a million hours of domiciliary care were not delivered in regions of England because of a lack of staff – equivalent to about £14.7mln worth of care, according to a survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

TUC analysis of data from the Coram Family and Childcare charity, also released on Tuesday, shows that every English region is struggling to recruit childcare workers – with 95% of councils telling the organization they were having difficulty recruiting skilled and experienced staff, and 80% saying recruitment was “very difficult”.

The head of Coram Family and Childcare, Megan Jarvie, said, “It is really concerning that we are seeing struggles to recruit right across the country. Action is needed to support the workforce to make sure that every child is able to access high-quality early education and childcare.”

In an effort to encourage traditionally underrepresented, mainly female, social care and childcare workers into unions, the TUC report notes that 99% of early years workers are women, while 41% are under 30. It said 81% of care workers are women, and 25% come from a black or ethnic minority background, compared with 15% across all workers.

Unions are also hoping to increase membership among migrant social care workers, whose numbers were up by 50,000 in 2022-23 after care workers were added to the skilled worker shortage occupation list in 2022.

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