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Care workers press government to wipe out poverty wages

CARE workers are demanding an end to poverty wages in the sector as Britons prepare to take part in the last “clap for carers” this evening. 

A new campaign by Citizens UK, in collaboration with care workers, is calling on the government to ensure that they are paid the real living wage, given adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and workers’ rights on par with those of NHS staff. 

About 280,000 workers in the sector are underpaid and in insecure roles, such as on zero-hours contracts, the charity said.

The call follows research last month by the Resolution Foundation that found that over half of Britain’s million care workers are paid less than the real living wage (£10.75 an hour in London, £9.30 elsewhere). The statutory minimum wage is £8.72 for adults.

Citizens UK is calling on the government to boost pay by injecting £1.4 billion into the sector. It is sending a petition with these demands to Health Secretary Matt Hancock today. 

The petition was created by care worker Tabitha from Wales, who recently had to turn to foodbanks after falling ill with Covid-19 for almost a month. On a low-paid zero-hours contract, she had no safety net to support her while off sick.

She said: “Everyone is clapping you, but you’re pitting yourself against a deadly disease without the proper pay and protection.”

Citizens UK said the campaign has received the backing of academics, unions, faith leaders, and teachers. 

Archbishop of York John Sentamu said it was “unacceptable” to pay social workers low wages while they risk their health and, in some cases, their lives to care for Britain’s most vulnerable people. 

Living Wage Foundation director Katherine Chapman said: “If this crisis has made one thing clear, it’s how much we rely on key workers to support our society.

“However … there is an urgent need to rethink how we value and reward those working in these critical roles.

"Providing social-care workers with a real living wage is an excellent first step to ‘building back better’ from this crisis, and we’re delighted to join a range of community leaders and cross-party politicians in supporting this campaign.”

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea called for “a complete overhaul of social care to reform its structure, funding and staffing. At its heart must be a significant pay rise for staff to begin to reflect their value to society. Until then, a real living wage is the least they can expect.”

The campaign comes as many Britons take part in the final weekly doorstep #clapforourcarers this evening at 8pm, 10 weeks after the ritual began. 

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