Tag Archives: care workers

Covid-19 reinforces the case for a ‘substantial’ pay rise for NHS staff, says Unite

The coronavirus pandemic reinforces – not diminishes – the strong case for the NHS workforce to receive a ‘beyond substantial’ pay rise for 2021-22, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said today (Friday 3 July).

Unite has joined with 13 other health unions and professional organisations to launch a campaign today to demand that pay talks start as soon as possible out of respect for the dedicated NHS staff who have battled Covid-19.

Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health sector, said that the last three year pay deal had started to rectify the pay deficit, but this now needs to be substantially built on.

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: “Warm words of praise by ministers and the weeks of Thursday evening clapping by a grateful nation are only part the story – and that’s why a generous pay rise is required to repair the damage of the last decade when pay in real terms was eroded by an estimated 20 per cent.

“A ‘softly, softly’ approach will fall on fallow ground, as the Tory ‘mask’ on the NHS begins to slip away – last week some 331 Conservative MPs opposed a motion that would have led to weekly testing of NHS workers and care staff.

“This hard-faced attitude was also highlighted by care minister Helen Whately who confirmed the government had ‘no plans’ to backdate a new financial support package that is set to be introduced for students starting this autumn.

“Now the lockdown is being eased, it was clear the Tories are reverting to type when it comes to their distaste for public services, of which the NHS is ‘the jewel in the crown’.

“Doctors, nurses and health workers of all hues, including student nurses and those who came out of retirement, stepped up to the plate big-time when the lockdown was imposed in March and the NHS was under severe pressure – and, sadly, more than 300 NHS and social care workers have now died after being infected with coronavirus.

“NHS staff don’t want ministerial platitudes on pay on the eve of the NHS’ 72nd birthday on Sunday (5 July), but a beyond substantial pay rise for their commitment, especially over the last few months when they have put their lives on the line, literally.

“As society returns slowly to the ‘new normal’, the government cannot be allowed to forget the dedication of NHS staff.”

Before lockdown, NHS Digital reported that between January and March this year, there were 84,393 advertised full-time equivalents in England – these ‘recruitment and retention’ issues are still relevant and important, and need to be addressed by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock.

An uplift in pay will start to tackle these recruitment problems.

Unite has signed-up to the plan of the joint health unions to bring about better pay for NHS staff, which Unite believes has widespread public support.

Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added: “People are fully engaged with the concept that without the NHS and its staff, the appalling death toll of nearly 44,000 would be even worse – and that the years of underfunding must cease. Increased funding must include budgets to tackle the backlog in non-Covid operations and procedures.

“Many, including prime minister Boris Johnson, owe their lives to the NHS – and now is the time to recognise that 24/7 commitment with a decent pay rise that reflects the sentiments of a grateful and relieved country.”

Unite welcomes Labour’s ‘care for carers’ demands in wake of Covid-19 impact

Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has welcomed Labour’s demands to provide fast-tracked mental health services for three million NHS and care workers.

The union said Labour’s plans would provide ‘much needed support’ for the mental wellbeing of health and care staff who have faced increased pressures and distress during the pandemic.

Unite national officer Jacalyn Williams said: “These plans would create much needed support for the mental health of NHS and care staff who have faced the brunt of the worst impacts of the pandemic day after day.

“Having lost patients and colleagues, and with the threat of the virus to themselves and their loved ones ever present, it is no surprise that the mental health of staff in the health and social care sector has suffered.

“After years of service cuts, staff shortages and increased workloads, there was already a mental health crisis amongst health and social care workers, but the pandemic has made the situation a lot worse.

“Unite welcomes Labour’s proposals and calls on the government to implement them as soon as possible.”

A national care service is the only way to prevent more deaths

Fundamental reform is needed to create a system fit for the future

The pandemic has exposed the fault lines in the social care system, which requires substantial reform if its many structural, financial and operational weaknesses are to be tackled, says UNISON in a new strategy document released today (Wednesday).

Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care sets out how the fragmented, crisis-riven sector could be transformed into a national care system. One that the union says could cope with the day-to-day challenges of caring for vulnerable people and be better prepared for a future health emergency of the same severity as the current pandemic.

Improved regulation and government oversight, better staff pay, stringent UK-wide professional standards, robust workers’ rights, and strategic long-term investment could help create a resilient care system that resembles the NHS more, says UNISON.

Significant emergency funding is crucial to protect the elderly and disabled from Covid-19 and any future crises, says the document.

Prior to the pandemic, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee called for an immediate investment of £8 billion in the sector. But far more will be needed before the end of the current Parliament if a care system is to be created that’s fit for purpose, says UNISON.

The extra cash should be used to invest in the workforce and fund local councils. This is so they have the resources and expertise to step in and take over care homes – if providers go bust – and run care services themselves.

In future, social care must become an important economic sector providing high-quality, well-paid jobs and no longer seen as a drain on the public purse. It has the potential to be part of the solution for local economies that have lost jobs because of the virus, says UNISON.

Care staff must be paid at least the real living wage – currently £10.75 in London, £9.30 an hour elsewhere – and there must be a new standard employment contract that includes sick pay, hours to be worked and payment for all the time they’re on duty.

Currently, many care workers are on zero-hours contracts, with little job security and without paid holidays or sick pay. Staff working out in the community and moving between care appointments often aren’t paid for their travel time, while some providing overnight care are not paid for every hour of those shifts, despite being on call.

The pandemic has exposed the poverty pay of care staff who earn so little some have had to choose between feeding their families or risking their health, and that of those they care for. Many couldn’t afford to take time off to self-isolate. Workers have been forced to make ends meet on statutory sick pay of just £95.85 a week and food banks, says UNISON.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Social care is the forgotten frontline, but the time for talking is over. For too long the care system has been weighted towards price and profit. Nothing less than a national care service will suffice.

“Vulnerable people have been pushed from pillar to post as owners and care providers jostle for a bigger slice of the pie.

“Underpaid, undervalued and undermined staff are at breaking point. The Covid-19 crisis has further exposed just how desperately the care sector needs reform.

“The NHS must be its inspiration. Any reform must build on the few positives to come from the pandemic – that care staff are highly skilled people, providing quality care, despite the many challenges they face.

“Never again should there be vulnerable people dying in their thousands in care homes because of poor planning, ignorance, or the relentless pursuit of profits. The government must introduce fundamental reform to create a system fit for the future, providing care for everyone who needs it.”

Care After Covid: A Vision for Social Care makes a series of recommendations, including:

· Everyone working in the care sector should undergo a minimum level of training to drive forward professionalisation and raise standards.

· Care workers must be added to the government’s shortage occupation list. Many are from overseas but proposed immigration changes will prevent anyone earning less than £25,600 from coming here.

· Local authorities responsible for sourcing care for local residents should only purchase services from providers that pay their taxes, recognise unions, provide staff with standard work contracts and pay at least the real living wage.

· There must be a move away from the complex commissioning model to a national care system, based on the NHS, where care is free at the point of need.

Extend free scheme to all frontline care and NHS staff, says UNISON

Union launches campaign urging people to write to their MP to get Immigration Bill changed

A government scheme exempting overseas workers from visa fees for one year should be extended to all care staff and NHS employees, says UNISON today (Monday).

The union is backing an amendment brought by MP Yvette Cooper to the Immigration Bill ​that would ensure many more staff – such as social care workers, hospital cleaners, healthcare assistants and porters – would not have to pay up to £3,000 to remain working on the Covid-19 frontline.

A campaign launched by UNISON urging people to write to their MP to get the Bill changed coincides with the publication today (Monday) of a Home Affairs Select Committee report​, which also calls for a visa scheme extension.

Only around 3,000 NHS workers – whose visas were due to expire before 1 October – currently qualify for the free extension announced in April by the Home Office.

UNISON says many more are having to face the costly and stressful process of applying because they are not eligible under the scheme.

They include care support worker Akeem Lawall who has been working up to 60 hours a week looking after vulnerable people throughout the pandemic in a care home.

The 37-year-old earns just £9.50 an hour but will have to pay to replace his visa when it expires in September this year, despite being classed as an essential worker.

Akeem, who came to the UK from Nigeria in 2016 and is married with two children, says: “I want to continue in my job caring for people.

“The visa is a huge cost though that I’ll struggle to pay given my wages – I don’t know how I’ll find the money.”

UNISON is also calling on the government to grant key workers who have been on the Covid-19 frontline indefinite leave to remain.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s deeply unjust that thousands of care workers and NHS staff don’t qualify for this free scheme.

“It’s a costly process reapplying and one that’s stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

“Many migrant workers are in a precarious position with their visas up for renewal during the crisis. They’re on the frontline looking after us – we must look after them too.​”

Greater clarity needed from PM on plans to scrap immigration health surcharge

Government must remove charge for all healthcare settings

Four health and care organisations – including UNISON – have today (Wednesday) written to the Prime Minister seeking confirmation that all international health and care staff, and their spouses and dependants, will no longer need to pay the immigration health surcharge (IHS).

The charge, which is due to rise from £400 to £624 a year in October, is currently payable by all migrant workers from non-EU countries, whether they access NHS services or not, both for themselves and for every dependant they have.

Last month, the UK government committed to scrapping the charge for health and care workers in the NHS, but the announcement did not include those working in other healthcare settings.

The letter, also signed by the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Physicians, asks the UK government to:

  • confirm that all health and care workers will be exempt from the charge on a permanent basis. This includes those employed in the NHS, independent settings and the social care sector.
  • confirm that the spouses and dependants of health and care workers will also be exempt from the charge.

The letter also seeks assurances that those healthcare staff who have already paid the charge in advance will receive a refund.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It was always wrong to charge overseas NHS and care staff to use the very services they help provide.

“Now this wrong is to be righted, ministers must refund all charges paid and ensure family members are included too.

“Going that one step further and scrapping the charge for all overseas workers – so that everyone paying taxes and contributing to the economy is no longer punished financially – must now happen too.”

Chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Dame Donna Kinnair said: “We have consistently campaigned for this charge to be scrapped. It has always been unfair for health and care staff effectively to pay twice to use the very service they work in.

“We welcomed the commitment to remove the charge but now we need assurances that this will apply to all health and care workers and their families.

“The contribution of our overseas nurses, across all settings, has been incredible particularly during the pandemic and it is essential this can continue.

“Action must be taken now to ensure all those who come here to dedicate themselves to our patients are not penalised for doing so.”

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: “Our international colleagues were hugely relieved when the Government made the long overdue decision to scrap this unfair charge for healthcare workers, recognising the vital contribution that overseas staff make to the NHS.

“However, three weeks’ later many will be increasingly anxious having heard nothing more.

“Doctors renewing visas are continuing to be charged and we need action now.

“The BMA persistently lobbied to have this punitive and absurd fee scrapped for our members and their colleagues and we will not stop until we have a system that is fair, right and leaves no international doctor worse off for contributing their valuable skills and expertise to the NHS and its patients.”

President of the Royal College of Physicians Professor Andrew Goddard said: “It has never made sense to make the very people whose jobs it is to care for our nation, pay inordinate charges to access care.

“While the government has recognised this, they haven’t gone far enough in reassuring all health and care workers that they and their families will be exempt from the charge.

“The contribution of international NHS and social care workers during the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be underestimated, and they should be fully recognised, commended and compensated for their efforts.”