The UK Health Secretary has failed to commit to following Scotland’s lead and ensuring all care workers in England get the Real Living Wage in recognition of their contribution to the Coronavirus response.
Responding to the UK government statement on Covid-19, SNP Shadow Health Secretary Dr Philippa Whitford MP urged Matt Hancock to roll-out the Real Living Wage to all care workers – like has been the case in Scotland for many years – and reverse the 20% cut to public health funding imposed by the Tories in 2015.
In his response, Matt Hancock said that health care workers already receive the living wage – lower than the Real Living Wage – and completely failed to address Dr Whitford’s point on reversing cuts.
The SNP say they have consistently called on the UK government to match Scottish per capita NHS spending to allow Holyrood to increase funding for NHS Scotland by over £4 billion by the end of this UK parliament.
The SNP Scottish Government budget for 2020/21 is increasing investment in health and care services by over £1 billion, taking portfolio investment over £15 billion for first time – this will see every penny of additional health resource and capital consequentials passed on in full, with the Scottish Government allocating more than £100 million over and above consequentials to support frontline spending.
Social care staff in Scotland will also receive a 3.3% pay increase backdated from 1 April.
Commenting, Dr Philippa Whitford said: “Care workers across the UK must be recognised for their contribution to the Coronavirus response. In Scotland we are already doing that by ensuring our care workers get the Real Living Wage.
“I am urging the UK government to do the same for care workers in England, as well as reverse the public health funding cuts.
“There are lessons to be learned from this pandemic – one of them is that our care workers and our precious NHS are vital and deserve to be recognised as such.
“It’s time for the Tories to wake up to this reality.
“Instead of cutting social care funding and undermining the NHS in England with outsourcing, fragmentation and frozen budgets – as they have done for the past decade – they must invest in the health care system and its workers.
UNISON steward Hassan Ortega works for a charity providing a homelessness prevention service in Salford.
He said: “I feel mixed about #ClapForCarers. It’s great that it’s raised the profile of workers in the community sector who are providing services that are keeping people safe, healthy and protected.”
However, he added that what care workers really need is not to be left unprotected and vulnerable due to PPE shortages.
“In some respects, it could be seen as a diversionary activity to keep the public busy. But I value that it’s raised the profile of a group of workers who were pretty much side-lined until recently.”
He continued: “Care workers are committed to enhancing the quality of life for those they work with, while themselves often enduring poor terms and conditions and poverty pay.
“For too long they have been undervalued, unsupported and poorly remunerated. And they undertake this work in a myriad of settings – in day centres, residential care facilities and individual’s homes.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, our dedicated care workers have continued to work in the most physically and emotionally challenging conditions in their workplaces.”