Unfair To Care report

July 9, 2021

One of Britain’s biggest social care charities, Community Integrated Care, has developed Unfair To Care, a new report examining the social care workforce crisis.

The research indicates that many social care workers would be paid up to 39% more – an additional £7,000 – if they worked in other public-funded sectors.

The charity has said that it is ‘immoral’ that so many of society’s most essential workers are experiencing the devastating consequences of poverty and is calling on the Government to provide an immediate ‘fair’ pay rise to all frontline care workers, instruct an expert-led social care workforce review and to create a longer-term workforce strategy.

Consultancy firm, Korn Ferry was commissioned to review the Support Worker role and concluded that the work of a frontline Support Worker is comparable to, and can often exceed, the demands of professions, such as healthcare assistants, police community support officers, and teaching assistants.

Korn Ferry’s assessment found that the median annual salary for equivalent roles in other public sector industries (such as NHS and within local authorities) could be £24,602. Therefore, these Support Workers being paid the current sector average of £17,695 p/a would need a 39% pay increase to be on equal terms with their other publicly funded counterparts.

The report outlines that If the NHS is used as the measure, this would be an NHS Pay Band 3 position. The average annual take home pay for colleagues in these roles is £25,142, with these positions enjoying significant benefits that are not typically available within social care – such as enhanced pay for unsociable hours. In fact, on average, roles in this pay band have a total package value of £30,092, when factoring in other benefits and entitlements.

Karolina Gerlich, CEO of The Care Workers’ charity, told CMM that ‘supporting the lives of people who draw on social care should be perceived and rewarded accordingly, as one of the most important jobs out there.’  The CEO said it is ‘unacceptable’ that care workers receive £7,000 less on average that in similar roles in the public sector, and said, ‘At the Care Workers’ Charity we have seen the consequences of this in the number of applications we receive. The price we put on care worker wages is also the price we put on the value of people who draw on social care, and both groups deserve much better.’

Highly skilled role

Researchers in the Unfair To Care report outline how the Support Worker role has always been technically, emotionally, and physically demanding. However, within the past decade it has changed substantially as local authority social care is largely available only to people who have the most complex needs.

  • Researchers said that postholders need at least three months to understand emotional triggers and behaviour specific to each individual, in order to respond appropriately to their needs.
  • Support workers need a degree of empathy ‘which goes above common courtesy.’
  • Problem solving skills were also placed highly on the requirement and needing to adapt and respond quickly to change.
  • Support and understand complex medical and behavioural needs.
  • Show high levels of accountability due to most work taking place without close supervision.
  • Many tasks and accountabilities that would previously have been delivered within the NHS are now delivered in the community by social care workers.

The National Care Forum (NCF) welcomes the research by member Community Integrated Care and said it 'provides an absolutely essential independent perspective on the complex, skilled and demanding roles within social care.'

Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF, said, 'Unfair to Care’ is hard hitting – and rightly so. It is hard to believe that in 2021 we have workers who are highly skilled, doing complex work that enables people to live the life they want and yet being paid at minimum wage. If we have learned anything in the last year, surely it is how valuable and how precious it is to be a part of your community and have control of your life.  That is what good quality care work delivers, day in and day out, for some of the most vulnerable members of society. Yet somehow, whether by design or neglect, we have sleepwalked into a position where staff are undervalued and underpaid.  We must take action now to intervene in the very real workforce crisis that is happening in hundreds and thousands of organisations up and down the country.'

Social care is engulfed in a workforce crisis. Every year, 34% of the workforce exits the sector – more than twice the average attrition rate across UK industries. There are presently 112,000 unfilled jobs.

According to a recent NCF member survey, nearly 60% said they have seen the rate of exit increase since April 2021. Over 40% of staff who leave, are leaving the sector altogether which represents a higher trend than previous national statistics. They are predominantly heading to the health sector where they can receive higher wages and better terms and conditions. They are also leaving to join hospitality and retail and they are stating that stress and burnout are at the top of the list for reasons to leave, with pay and terms and conditions coming not far behind. At the same time, it is harder to recruit replacements, with particular issues in rural areas.

NCF is calling on the Government to act rapidly on the evidence presented by Community Integrated Care, which calls for an immediate increase to care workers’ pay, a full-scale independent evaluation of roles and a detailed workforce strategy to ensure social care is a viable, respected and sustainable career.

Mark Adams, Chief Executive of Community Integrated Care, said, ‘This is an issue that affects not only the entire care sector but society at large too. It can only be changed with progressive reform and focus from central government. Social care is funded by local authorities who are stretched to breaking point. These same challenges, in turn, are passed on to care providers, families and the people we support. Change is needed. We hope that this research gives fresh impetus to support this.’

Skills for Care believe that ‘policies to reform adult social care will not be successful unless they address the needs of the workforce, through a social care people plan and comprehensive workforce planning, underpinned by data and an understanding of our workforce now and in the future.’

To read the report in full and case studies, visit the Unfair To Care website.


According to new data released by Skills for Care, there are 1.67 million jobs estimated in adult social care, compared to 1.3 million jobs in the NHS.


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