Government advisors demand ‘urgent’ rise in carers’ pay to prevent Covid crisis

Government advisors demand ‘urgent’ rise in carers’ pay to prevent Covid crisis
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Carers should be paid more than Aldi staff – and pocket “significantly more than £10-an-hour”, the Government’s top migration adviser warned today.

Ministers were today urged to boost pay for the industry to avoid a deepening crisis as the Brexit transition ends on December 31.

The Migration Advisory Committee called on the Government to hike wages in the low-paid sector to attract British workers.

Chairman Professor Brian Bell told the Mirror: “An awful lot of social care workers are paid the minimum wage of £8.72 an hour.

“I keep on referring to Aldi as an example where their entry level wage for working on the shop floor is £9.40 an hour.

“You just have to ask the question, ‘If you’re thinking of what career to go into, do you decide to go and earn £9.40 an hour working on a shop floor, or £8.72 – ie, eight or nine per cent less – in the extraordinarily stressful and hard work that a care worker has to?’

Social care workers were controversially left out of plans for a fast-track health and care visa unveiled this year

“You have to be well above that level that Aldi is paying before you begin to attract workers.

“The care sector needs to be able to attract workers who perhaps haven’t thought of a career in social care.

“To do that, my guess is you need to be talking comfortably above £10 – and I emphasise that’s only to begin to attract people.

“There is of course a fundamentally different question that is – how much do we value these workers as a society, and how much we should pay them?

“My personal view is that it is significantly higher than £10-an-hour.”

It came as the Migration Advisory Committee called on the Government to hike wages in the low-paid sector to attract British workers.

It said relying on foreigners to fill positions was unsustainable – and warned of the “stark” impact of losing potential staff when the country was battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Social care workers were controversially left out of plans for a fast-track health and care visa unveiled this year.

The latest warning from Whitehall’s immigration advisers came in a 649-page report published today.

It called for a host of roles to be added to the Shortage Occupation List – making it easier for foreigners to get those jobs – when the UK ends EU freedom of movement from January 1 and a new points-based immigration system begins.

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Other occupations which should be added to the list include butchers, bricklayers and welders, the MAC said.

While figures last month showed annual net migration surged to a four-yeah high of 313,000 just before the coronavirus pandemic brought world travel to a grinding halt, the next set of statistics, due in November, is expected to show falls triggered by the Covid-19 crisis.

MAC chairman Professor Brian Bell, said: “The number of migrants coming to work in the UK has already decreased and we are likely to see an increase in unemployment over the next year as the economic impact of the pandemic continues, so this has been a very challenging time to look at the Shortage Occupation Lists.

“It has made us more willing to recommend some roles for inclusion simply because it is the sensible thing to do, but we have been clear that migration is not always the solution.

“We remain particularly concerned about the social care sector, which is so central to the frontline response to this health pandemic, as it will struggle to recruit the necessary staff if wages do not increase as a matter of urgency.”

Outlining the need to increase wages for social care, the MAC’s report says the country cannot rely on people made redundant in the pandemic to fill vacancies.

“Whilst there is a potential rise in labour supply to the care sector as a result of job losses in other sectors (for example the retail or hospitality sectors) due to the impact of Covid-19, this cannot be predicted with any certainty,” it says.

“It therefore remains crucial that the Government implements a more sustainable and generous funding model.

“The risks of this not happening in a timely manner are stark.

“If that does not occur, or occurs with substantial delay, we would expect the end of freedom of movement to increase the pressure on the social care sector, something that would be particularly difficult to understand at a time when so many care occupations are central to the Covid-19 pandemic frontline response.”

The report predicts a drop in migrants from the EU, but a surge in migration from other countries.

But it will not be enough to tackle the social care crisis, according to the report.

“Migration is often a sensible response to a labour shortage that cannot rapidly be met by hiring domestic workers,” warns the study.

“This is often because it takes time to generate a new supply of domestic workers with the right skills and experience, and migration can help fill the gap.

“However, we believe that migration alone cannot solve the care crisis in the UK more substantially, not because we underestimate the difficulties faced in the sector, but because migration will not solve underlying problems with pay and incentives that are fundamental to placing the social care sector on a sustainable footing.

“The fact that there is such high turnover in the sector highlights these problems.

“While migration could in theory be used to create a ‘captive’ workforce of low-paid workers tied to the job by their visa conditions (at least in the short run), doing this has significant drawbacks, including exacerbating the risks of exploitation of low-paid workers with limited ability to move between employers.”

A Government spokesman said: “The Migration Advisory Committee has again been very clear that immigration is not the solution to addressing staffing levels in the social care sector.

“We’re helping the sector in a number of ways, including £1.5billion more funding for adults and children’s social care in 2020-21 and a national recruitment scheme.

“We would like to thank the Migration Advisory Committee for its report, which we will consider carefully before making final decisions.”

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