Care workers to be paid real living wage after Wigan Council bosses give green light

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Thousands of care workers in Wigan will be paid the real living wage after council bosses bid to help boost staffing levels.

This is the first step towards tackling issues in adult social care following the recent tax rise of 4.99 per cent which allowed a £7.724m investment towards the health sector. The real living wage will be available to all care workers that come under the commission of the local authority – and private care homes are being asked to participate, Wigan Town Hall was told.

The real living wage is the only wage rate calculated based on the true cost of living, whereas the national living wage is a percentage of average earnings.

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Coun Keith CunliffeCoun Keith Cunliffe
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The new rate for the UK is set to increase in 2023 to £10.90 per hour. This is a 14.7 per cent increase on the April 2022 national living wage.

The council’s cabinet met on March 16 to discuss the proposals which they hope can “benefit workforce capacity, recruitment and retention, helping to drive forward the Council’s vision for community health and wealth building.”

This is "landmark step” taken by the council, according to NHS health worker Coun Keith Cunliffe, deputy leader of the council.

“If people can go and get paid more working in a supermarket (than as a care worker) then we are not enticing people into the sector,” he told the cabinet. “We are looking at creating a workforce to address the national issue in adult social care on a local level.

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“We want to make sure they get paid the real living wage. This means that any service we commission, their staff will receive the foundation living wage.”

He explained that an offer will be put out to private care homes as well to increase care workers wages in line with those that come under the Wigan Council umbrella. If they do sign up, the council will pay the difference, the council chamber heard.

“If a number of care homes sign up to this that will make a difference to those others who don’t sign up to this (staff will be less likely to stay in a place with lower wages),” Coun Cunliffe added. “It is a landmark that this council has chosen to do this and it will be well received by all carers in the borough.”

Coun Cunliffe believes this gesture could in turn “benefit the local economy” as people “will be spending money locally and not sending it to a Cayman Island account”. This means that a large proportion of the 7,400 people currently working in the sector could receive a pay rise.

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A council report stated that at national level the care market remains fragile financially with an increased risk of provider failure. This has come due to the impact of inflation and the rise in the cost of care – the main reason a two per cent precept was implemented across the country to help fund the sector better.

The council already invests over £49m a year on residential and nursing care for adults, including £26m on activity provided by homes operating within the borough and paid at contracted fee levels which are reviewed annually.

The £7.7m boost included in the budget, agreed at full council on March 1, is supposed to help maintain and improve the care provided in the borough.