Living Wage Foundation calls for the real Living Wage in social care

The Living Wage Foundation, together with our sister organisation Citizens UK, is calling for the future government to prioritise paying all adult social care workers in England the real Living Wage, building on the example set in Scotland and Wales.  

A new policy paper launched today by the Living Wage Foundation, featuring new analysis from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), reveals that over 400,000 adult social care workers in England are currently paid below the real Living Wage. This represents 43% of all adult social care workers, rising to 80% in London.   

To ensure all adult social care workers are paid the real Living Wage, including the higher London Living Wage for those in the capital, it would cost an estimated £415 million. However, this cost would fall to £330 million when considering the uplift cost would be offset by government recouping additional income tax and national insurance through higher wages. This is less than 2% of the social care budget for the coming year.  

Investing in decent pay for social care workers isn’t just good for workers but also for the wider economy. According to Skills for Care, every £1 invested in social care, £1.75 would be generated in the wider economy. In addition, Smith Institute research shows that if a quarter of low paid workers had their pay increased to the real Living Wage, the UK economy would grow by £1.7 billion.  

The policy paper outlines that securing at least the real Living Wage for every hour worked including sleep-in shifts and in-work travel time, is a crucial first step in addressing the social care crisis. It would improve staff recruitment and retention, enhance the availability and quality of social care, and alleviate pressure on the NHS.  

Katherine Chapman, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: "Care workers play a vital role in society, yet social care remains one of the lowest-paid sectors. Our policy paper reveals that over 400,000 care workers in England are paid below the real Living Wage. Despite being the backbone of our country, providing essential care to our loved ones when they need it most, many are struggling to make ends meet in insecure, poorly paid jobs that don't cover the cost of living. We must urgently rethink how we value and reward our country's care workers. 

We would like to see the next government properly fund social care to ensure that all adult social care workers are paid at least the real Living Wage. Decent pay is a vital first step in addressing the staffing shortfall and building a sustainable social care system that values its workers and delivers high-quality care." 

Vic Rayner OBE, CEO, National Care Forum, said: “Today’s policy paper from the Living Wage Foundation shows the enormous pressure on our care workforce and the urgency with which a new government must address the pay, terms and conditions for all care workers. Care work is a highly skilled, emotionally intense profession that communities and people across the country rely on to deliver high-quality care and support which empowers people to live the lives they want to lead. We need to care for our care workers and ensure that the public funding for this vital public service recognises and values their expertise. A fully funded real Living Wage is the first step in the right direction.”  

Read the full report here.