A social care leader is calling for an assurance that everybody working in the sector in Rhondda Cynon Taf will receive a £1,000 bonus payment – even staff like cooks, care support workers and cleaners.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said the extra cash for front line social care workers announced by the Welsh Government was welcome in the midst of a dire staff shortage.
But he’s concerned that some ancillary staff might miss out.
Mr Kreft says that would be totally unfair when they too have played a vital role in keeping vulnerable people safe during the pandemic.
According to Deputy Health Minister Julie Morgan MS, the initiative is costing £96 million and the bonus will be aimed at some 53,000 people working in the sector.
It comes on top of the £43.2 million announced last December that’s designed to ensure social care workers receive the Real Living Wage from April onwards.
Care Forum Wales are concerned that all of this money might not reach the frontline because it is being channelled via local authorities and health boards.
Last year Mr Kreft was criticised by the Welsh Local Government Association for suggesting that asking councils to distribute social care funding to care homes and domiciliary care companies was like “putting a fox in charge of the henhouse”.
Some authorities were better than others in getting the cash to front line but in far too many cases, he said, care homes were still waiting for any extra money to reach them.
Mr Kreft said: “We certainly welcome the £1,000 as a first step recruiting and retaining social care workers at a time when we are facing the worst staffing crisis anybody in the sector can remember.
“There is a much bigger issue about how we value social care worker and how we commission social care to ensure that our wonderful workforce receive the rewards that they deserve.
“We have been having weekly meetings with the Deputy Minister and we are grateful to her for her inclusive approach in involving Care Forum Wales in her deliberations.
“In relation to the £1,000, there is a question mark about those people who have slogged their guts out during the Covid nightmare, through all of the challenges, who may not be eligible.
“I am thinking of people who may have been dealing with infection control, catering and cleaning staff because they have all played an absolutely key role in keeping people safe.
“We really need to have clarity that these people are not going to be overlooked because there has been an astonishing commitment by the social care sector and social care workers in different settings come in all shapes and sizes.
“I hope there’s going to discretion in that guidance for employers to be able to ensure those who have kept people safe and gone above and beyond during the pandemic are rewarded for those efforts.
“The key thing is that nobody gets overlooked because in Wales social care staff have made an astonishing contribution to the safety of vulnerable people.
“We need to make sure that social care family benefits but I think that’s possible because I think the government understands the sector has made.
“The issue is quite different in terms of the £43 million that’s been set aside to pay people Real Living Wage from April.
“The delivery mechanism for that needs to be very carefully developed in partnership with the sector so that the guidance is such that local authorities and health boards will ensure it gets through to the front line so that our staff can actually receive the Real Living Wage.
“Care Forum Wales was very clear in 2020 when we launched our campaign for social care workers to receive an annual salary of at least £20,000.
“Every political party in Wales bought into that campaign and what now need to ensure is that we have the right mechanism so that local authorities have no wriggle room.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of the shambles last autumn when £41 million in recovery funding was given to local authorities because we Know that has been less than consistently allocated to the sector, as we warned would be the case at the time.
“Last October we felt the guidance was not strong enough or clear enough and we were criticised by the Welsh Local Government Association for daring to suggest that would be the case.
“In the event our concerns were proved to be wholly accurate. Surprise, surprise – many months later in February we see there are those local authorities, as we predicted, that there were some local authorities who did the right thing while others sat on the hands.
“We still have some local authorities in Wales that have not ensured that desperately needed money has got to the frontline as the Welsh Government intended.
“Some providers have still got the begging bowl out at a time when care homes are closing because of financial difficulties.
“Among the places we have lost is a greatly valued care home in Mold and that is a stark reminder we have to have a sustainable service and that people with complex needs can be cared for in their own community and they don’t have to remain in hospital so the NHS can concentrate on what it’s best at.
“That is why we have to ensure the new guidance for the Real Living Wage is worked on and co-produced in partnership with all parties so we have an effective mechanism for distributing funding in the right way.
“This is surely the beginning of a more consistent national approach instead of the postcode lottery of having 22 local authorities and seven health boards doing things differently.
“Last October I said that allocating the funding via local government was tantamount to putting a fox in charge of the henhouse and sadly what I feared has now come to pass. It hasn’t been consistently applied and there are cases where the money has not got to the front line.
“It’s therefore vital that we learn the lessons and we approach this issue in partnership so that we do not repeat the same mistakes.
“We need to see social care workers as a value not a cost to our society and our country.”