In the UK, there are almost two million adult social workers that contribute a combined economic value just shy of £120 billion every year. Responsible for the assistance of day-to-day activities of vulnerable and elderly people, carers lie within the unique position of being both highly needed, yet historically poorly compensated for their efforts.
Although there are signs of carers’ wages increasing, these rates are by no means appropriate as per the daily responsibilities undertaken by these compassionate individuals.
To help you understand a little more about how carers’ pay stacks up against other forms of income in the UK, keep reading as we provide some perspective into the inadequacy of carers’ income.
What Do Carers Do?
Care Workers have varied daily responsibilities, with most of them residing within everyday support of tasks for vulnerable and elderly people. For many carers, these tasks include but are not limited to:
• Providing companionship
• Administering medication
• Personal care – hygiene, dressing, and continence support
• Daily household duties
• Mobility assistance
“Many carers often have no idea what they’re going to encounter one day to the next” says Natalie Regan, HR Manager for My Care My Home “With some conditions drastically altering a patients’ mental wellbeing, carers frequently have to make on-the-spot decisions as to how their services are provided.”
How Much Do Carers Earn?
Many of us recognise that caring is an incredibly selfless activity. Countless hours of training, preparation and experience are all needed before someone can officially be classified as a trustworthy carer.
According to data gathered by Workforce Intelligence in 2019, the average hourly income of a paid carer is £8.50. This equates to a weekly income of £272, or £1,088 a month. This leaves carers with an average annual income of £14,144. A 2019 report released by the ONS unveiled that the UK’s average salary arrives at £28,080, nearly twice as much as the average carer.
However, there are some signs of slight improvement. As of April 2021, the National Living wage now resides at £8.91 for those above the age of 23. This could mean that just under 500,000 UK carers will directly benefit from this increase.
Natalie Regan says “Wages are a delicate subject in the caregiving sector. For some, their passion for looking after others significantly outweighs their financial compensation. This often leads to many carers being substantially underpaid. At My Care My Home we offer ourstaff contracted hours. We do not believe such important roles should be zero hours contracts and this at least provides some job security.”
Why Are Carers Paid So Little?
The main reason as to why carers feel so unsupported in their positions is due to a lack of aid from government bodies.
For many years, care facilities have received little to no relief from the UK government. This is largely attributed to the way in which state-funded care is sometimes outsourced to private care providers in pursuit of reduced rates.
In addition to this, research undertaken by The King’s Fund has shown that publicly funded social care is paid approximately £700 million less when compared to statistics from 2010/11.
These issues are further compounded by the fact that anyone can become a carer. There is no need for a degree or advanced qualification, which means that the pay band is naturally much lower.
What Can be Done?
A report released by the Bevan Foundation recently highlighted some of the biggest challenges that many carers face. Here are some ways in which these challenges could be addressed and rectified:
Despite their frailty, elderly patients can quickly become physically violent if they feel threatened or unsafe. This leaves many paid carers at risk of becoming injured and unable to look after their patients.
As a potential remedy, employers should endeavour to make carers feel validated whenever they raise concerns over safety, as doing so could potentially avoid these dangerous experiences for both patients and carers.
Precarious working contracts aside, another major concern for private carers is found within late payment. As such, measures should be introduced to ensure that employees are paid adequately for their services. This can help ease any anxieties and potentially avoid debt.
Many carers rely on zero hours working contracts for their employment. The negative connotations of these contracts are incredibly well documented, to which carers are vastly familiar. All too often are carers expected to work beyond their break or for twice as long without being paid.
To rectify this, carers should be provided with stable working contracts in which they are paid for the hours they’ve worked, as opposed to the hours in their contract.
Perhaps the most obvious way in which carers can be supported by their employers is through receiving an increased hourly wage. While there are signs of improvement, as seen by the increase of the National Living Wage, some carers’ wages are yet to be brought in line with these rates.