The future of social care by Helen England, Interim CEO
In this blog:
- Why social care matters
- How social care is funded
- Pay parity and why it matters
- Recruitment and retention in social care
- A united voice for change
Why social care matters
Since joining Brandon earlier this year as Interim CEO, I have discovered countless examples of the passion, talent, commitment and joy that our support workers bring to the people we support through life-changing experiences every single day.
I have also, through my network of peers in leadership roles in social care, seen that this is not unique to Brandon – it is not an exaggeration to say that social care’s support workers are part of the glue that holds the very fabric of our society together. Support workers provide essential support for others; people who are our neighbours, our family members and our friends – the most laudable yet underappreciated work.
I have been struck by the glaringly obvious significant changes needed in our wider society to truly value the work support workers do, to truly value the contribution they make to individual lives and therefore, the wider communities in which they serve.
Support workers are not paid fairly and Brandon is committed to being a voice for change to ensure they are recognised through their pay for the work they do.
How social care is funded
Brandon Trust, like all social care providers, is ultimately funded by the Government. Local authorities, through contracts for the care of individuals, pay us to provide the support that is needed.
Every year, from their central Government funding allocation, local authorities decide how much they can afford to pay organisations like Brandon to deliver the contracts we hold. We have excellent relationships with our local authority commissioners, who we negotiate our contracts with. We understand each others’ challenges and pressures. We know they are doing their best with the resources they are given.
Brandon is a specialist social care charity, providing support to adults, young people and children with learning disabilities and autistic people. A very small number of people we support do pay privately to ensure their needs are met – but the vast majority of autistic people and people with learning disabilities in England, including those supported by Brandon, are supported financially by our local authorities or the NHS, on behalf of the Government.
This means, what we can afford to pay our support workers, is ultimately determined by how much the Government provides to local authorities for social care in our communities.
Pay parity and why it matters
Brandon’s support workers, whose pay is determined by the amount of money local authorities pay us to deliver our services, start on the national living wage. Some local authorities have an agreed minimum banding for support workers which is above the national living wage – Cornwall and London, for example – which Brandon is then able to pass on to staff working in those areas.
But there is no pay parity across the social care sector in England. Support workers’ starting salaries are determined by the organisation they are working for or the local authority area they are working in.
Brandon is a large enough charity that we can take into account the different funding models across local authority areas to deliver a fair pay scale for the support workers we employ. But because of the funding we receive, we cannot afford to match those starting salaries to comparable roles in the NHS.
The work, responsibilities and expectations of an NHS Band 3 member of staff are exactly the same as a support worker but social care support workers do not have pay parity with the NHS.
The NHS and social care are governed as a single entity by the Department of Health and Social Care, but without pay parity with the NHS, or a comparable pay structure, social care is not granted the same stability or value. Sadly, frustratingly, support workers are simply not paid what they deserve.
Support workers are highly skilled and dedicated. Social care is a vast, all-encompassing sector, yet the national spotlight on social care has traditionally focussed only on older adults and the impact their care can have on the stability of the NHS.
Social care, is in fact, the very bedrock on which everything we value in our society is grounded. Underfunded social care can and does impact NHS efficiency. It also impacts community cohesion and local public and community services (which will feel the strain or the pain of local authority funding decisions when budgets have to balance and social care is a non-negotiable cost).
Recruitment and retention
The greatest challenge facing all sectors, private and public, in 2023, is the recruitment and retention of talented, passionate, committed staff. Every CEO, of every organisation, knows it is our greatest risk and our greatest opportunity.
Social care needs to keep the incredible support workers in our organisations, and not lose them to marginally higher paid roles in other sectors (the likes of retail and hospitality could offer a small pay rise and none of the responsibilities we expect support workers to carry for other people’s physical and mental wellbeing). A support worker equivalent to an NHS Band 3 role (which includes NHS clerical staff, therapy assistants and pharmacy assistants) could earn significantly more working for the NHS instead.
With more than 100,000 vacancies in the social care sector, we also need to recruit new support workers who will commit to the people we support throughout their lives, to ensure they can live the lives they choose.
So what is the solution? We believe social care must no longer be the poor pay relation to the NHS. We believe we urgently need properly funded pay parity, properly benchmarked national pay grades, all properly funded by the Government. Support workers are equal to, not less than.
A united voice for change
We believe that in order to effect real change in social care, we need to speak as one sector in order to amplify the issues at hand as loudly as possible.
For too long, individual organisations and social care advocates have worked alone to campaign for change. Because so much change is needed, this waters down the impact we could have.
There are calls for a National Care Service, there are calls for national pay grades for social care, there are calls for all sorts of measures designed to develop the experience people supported have.
So there is fragmentation, passionate campaigning on the fringes and little momentum to really move us forward for the better.
Brandon is wholly supportive of the petition recently launched by Dimensions to the Minister of State for Social Care, calling for pay parity with NHS Band 3.
We are proud to amplify Dimensions’ campaign on behalf of our staff and people we support. We urge all our supporters and anyone with a commitment to equality in social care, to read more about and sign the petition: Save Social Care - Align care and support worker pay to NHS pay bands.
In the coming months, Brandon will be working with our staff and colleagues across the social care sector to align our sector values and campaign together, as one amplified voice, for the highest quality social care for all. Our support workers deserve it. The people we support deserve it.