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Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Social Services

First published:
21 December 2021
Last updated:

One of our key pledges in the Programme for Government was to pay social care workers the Real Living Wage. We are now taking the necessary steps to make that happen.

Throughout the pandemic we have all seen the vital contribution that social care workers have made and continue to make, every single day to our health and social care system. And yet social care providers still face considerable challenges in both recruiting and retaining people with the skills needed to undertake these important roles.

Last year, we convened the tripartite Social Care Fair Work Forum to look at what more can be done to improve the employment terms and conditions in this very complex sector. Alongside professionalisation; improving the terms and conditions of the workforce is an important step towards improving recruitment and retention. We are firmly of the view that working in social partnership, through the Forum, is the best way to bring about sustainable change in this sector. We were pleased to receive the Forum’s advice on implementation of the Real Living Wage commitment and this advice has helped to inform our decisions on the next steps that we will now take.

The Real Living Wage is independently calculated by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, in an annual process. The Real Living Wage rate for the UK (excluding London) announced in November this year, is £9.90 per hour.

The uplift to the Real Living Wage will apply to registered workers in care homes and domiciliary care, in both adults and children’s services. We also intend that it will be received by Personal Assistants in so far as they are funded through a Direct Payment. In considering the scope of the commitment, the Forum asked for us to go wider than these groups of workers, and we considered this advice carefully. However, our commitment is to implementing the Real Living Wage for social care workers, and we believe that the registered workforce and Personal Assistants is the right place to start. There are additional expectations placed on registered workers for example in relation to learning and development. Personal Assistants, while not currently registered with Social Care Wales, often carry out a similar role to domiciliary care workers. Because of this and their important role in ensuring voice and control for those who receive care and support, they will also be in scope.

We have provided funding, through the local government settlement, to enable local authorities to commence implementation of a Real Living Wage uplift from April. This is however, a very complex sector with hundreds of different employers. The funding will take time to work its way through local authority and health board commissioning to worker’s pockets. We want to see that happen as quickly as possible but it is not the case that all eligible workers will receive the payment from April. This will take time to implement. It is a long term commitment and we will need to ensure that we do this carefully and in a way that does not destabilise the sector.

Our work indicates that the cost of this commitment across local authority and health board commissioning will be in the region of £43.2m, of which £6.7m is for care commissioned by health boards and will be separately met from our health budget. This also includes a contribution towards the cost of maintaining differentials at the lower end of pay scales. This will help employers to continue to pay a supplement for workers that take on some additional duties, or that are paid above the statutory minimum because they have longer service for example.

We have worked with health boards and local authorities, through the Association for Directors of Social Services Cymru, to identify the cost of implementing this commitment. We will monitor the cost of implementation closely and will continue to work closely with commissioners of social care, and others as we design implementation.

The success of this commitment will now be dependent on all stakeholders coming together to work jointly on implementation, including employers.

We will now proceed to work with local authorities, health boards and providers to develop guidance for all stakeholders on the detailed approach to implementation. We will be establishing a number of working groups to develop the guidance, and will provide a further update to the Senedd once that work is complete.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do that.