UNISON: Wales has social care ‘on the cheap’

Responding to the publication of the Older People’s Commissioner’s report ‘A Place to Call Home’, Andy Rutherford, UNISON lead organiser for social care said,

“The report has shone a welcome light on the desperate situation in social care. Overstretched resources mean those receiving care are not getting the level of support they need. At the same time, the largely female workforce suffers in-work poverty with low pay and very poor conditions of service. Morale is rock bottom. This is social care ‘on the cheap’.

“Quality social care services can only be delivered through proper investment in carers. If you want a stable workforce and improved recruitment and retention you must provide decent pay and fair conditions of service, training and career development. UNISON is campaigning for carers to receive at least the Foundation Living Wage of £8.75 per hour.

“Social services and the third sector aren’t valued in the same way as the NHS and much residential care falls into this category. Ending the two-tier workforce and raising the generally inferior social care employment conditions should be a priority.

“Welsh government has long talked about ‘prudent health and social care’ but progress has been frustratingly slow. We need to look carefully at who is delivering patient care. Many carers are under-utilised or not given the opportunity or the authority to work to their approved skill level. Other, more senior professionals are working below their skill level delivering patient care that could be more done in a more cost-efficient way.

“The marketisation of social care has failed. An increase in choice has not led to an increase in quality. Private employers seek to maximise profits and staff employment conditions are always undermined. Inevitably, quality of service is affected.

“Wales is underfunded by Westminster and brutal spending cuts means there is not enough money to keep public services afloat, especially in social care where demand is increasing significantly. Social care needs more money now and we want to see local authorities brought into future planning with Welsh government and health boards. Given the ageing population of Wales set to increase, this issue is a ticking time bomb, if they don’t address it now the situation will get much worse in years to come.”

UNISON has developed a campaigning Residential Care Charter which it is asking decision makers to adopt. It has dignity of care for patients and dignity at work for staff at its core.

Notes for editors

UNISON’s campaigning Residential Care Charter provisions include:

  • Adequate staff ratios
  • Staff are regularly trained
  • All residential care workers to be paid at least the Foundation Living Wage
  • Extra payments for working unsocial hours
  • Pay for sleep-ins must be at a level to ensure that the average hourly rate does not drop below the Living Wage
  • Holiday periods must also be paid as if at work
  • All care workers will be paid occupational sick pay
  • Zero hours contracts will not be used
  • Care workers will be given adequate breaks during their working day

Some of the elements in the A Place to Call Home contained in this report are of major concern to UNISON. The trade union does not support the delivery of health and social care services outside of the public sector; it does not believe public service mutuals, i.e. outsourcing to co-operatives, mutuals or social enterprises will create any better public engagement and will undermine worker’s terms and conditions.


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 53 83 97