Social care workers are losing out on thousands of pounds a year compared to other frontline professionals with similar skills, research suggests.
Many frontline workers in social care are undervalued by as much as 39% – nearly £7,000 a year – compared to equivalent publicly funded positions, according to a report by Community Integrated Care (CIC).
The charity commissioned the consulting firm Korn Ferry to analyse the support worker position compared to other public sector roles, which found it is “significantly undervalued”.
The average pay for support workers in England who assist people to live independently in the community is £17,695 or £9.05 per hour – 45p per hour below the Real Living Wage.
Researchers found that roles with equivalent scope, complexity and accountability within other public-funded sectors were paid £24,602 on average.
The average take home pay for equivalent NHS jobs was £25,142, meaning many social care workers would need a 42% rise – an extra £7,447 – to achieve parity.
The support worker role has transformed over the past decade as people are increasingly supported with complex health and care needs, CIC said.
The charity said the situation was “immoral, illogical, and cannot be justified” and called for it to be fixed through greater investment and progressive reforms.
Mark Adams, CIC chief executive, said: “All evidence points to overwhelming public support for investment in the sector. This is an issue of strategy and focus, not of possibility.
“It is a matter of national shame that social care workers, who provide such an invaluable service to society, are in such desperate circumstances.
“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, frontline workers have risked their health to protect those who need their support.
“Most have done so below the poverty line and without the basic safety net of sick pay. This cannot continue.”
Oonagh Smyth, chief executive of Skills for Care, added: “Community Integrated Care have brought together a wide range of data and thinking, including from our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set, to make the clear case that our 1.5 million workforce are highly skilled professionals, who deserve to be recognised as such as we enter a period of promised reform.
“We believe that policies to reform adult social care will not be successful unless they address the needs of the workforce, through a social care people plan and comprehensive workforce planning, underpinned by data and an understanding of our workforce now and in the future.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “The social care sector has been an essential and valued part of the frontline response to the pandemic.
“We have sought to protect the workforce and those receiving social care, providing over £2 billion for the sector including infection prevention and control measures, free PPE and regular testing, and we prioritised staff for the vaccine.
“We are committed to the sustainable improvement of the adult social care system and, as set out in the Queen’s Speech, we will bring forward proposals later this year to ensure every person receives the care they need, provided with the dignity they deserve.”