As the city council’s business plan and budget 2016+ is discussed at cabinet, council leader Cllr John Clancy talks about why increasing pay for carers during a time of ever-deepening cuts is the right thing to do.
If caring for people is a basic human instinct and a mark of a civilised society, then surely how we treat professional carers is a sign of how progressive we are as a society.
So why are carers in this country historically paid so little? Is it, to our shame, because they are predominantly women?
Whatever the reason, it is a problem that needs to be addressed and while I can’t change the entire sector overnight, I intend to start with a significant step in the right direction – the Birmingham Care Wage. This means any organisations we contract with to provide social care must pay its employees this wage.
When this administration introduced its Birmingham Living Wage policy it was generally understood that social care was an area where it was hardest to achieve and therefore initially outside the scope of our efforts to ensure workers got a fair deal.
But it has always been our ambition to include private sector care staff working on council contracts. It is morally the right thing to do so, despite the continued assault on local government finances and the difficult cuts we are having to make, this cannot be an excuse to do nothing.
My cabinet colleague Paulette Hamilton has spent a lot of time speaking to carers and knows just how hard they work in often emotionally difficult circumstances. Words are cheap and we can talk all day about how we value their contribution to society – the Birmingham Care Wage is how we show it.
To that end, while we cannot immediately afford the full Birmingham Living Wage, we will introduce the Birmingham Care Wage which will increase all care workers’ hourly rate to £7.50 from April 2016, with a view to increasing this to the Birmingham Living Wage in April 2018.
Although it not the full Birmingham Living Wage (£8.25 an hour from 1 April) it is better than the National Living Wage (£7.20 from 1 April). So the difference between the current minimum wage and the Birmingham Care Wage is more than £1,600 a year, based on a 40 hour week.
Now there will be people asking why we don’t just keep carers’ pay where it is for now, given the current financial climate. Well, I say to them that not only is it the right thing to do, it will improve quality of work, reduce sickness levels and help retain staff.