Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said care workers were saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted their true value and it was high time it was recognised by the authorities who commissioned publicly funded social care.
He said it was a “national disgrace” that the 2020 Fair Pay campaign was necessary but hoped it would shame the councils and the health boards into taking action to finally ensure that qualified care workers could be paid properly.
One of Mr Kreft’s fears is that the NHS will effectively poach social care staff to cope with the extra demands caused by the second surge of the virus.
He is calling for an assurance from the seven health boards in Wales that they will not be recruiting additional staff from care homes and domiciliary care by offering them more money to work for them than they allowed care providers to pay.
“Social care staff have risen magnificently to the immense challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the public understand better than ever that these people do have important skills and are vital to their communities across Wales.
“They are an army of heroes and should be viewed as a value rather than a cost to society.
“It is high time that when local authorities and health board commission publicly funded social care services that the formulas they use finally recognise their true value and enable providers to pay frontline staff a minimum of £20,000 a year from April 1 next year.
“We know from the first wave of the pandemic that the NHS does not have enough staff to run the rainbow hospitals in Wales so the only place that they can go and get people with those sorts of skills is the care sector and the care sector is critically endangered.
“If we lose skilled social care staff to the NHS then the result of that could be that homes could have to temporarily close down and send their residents to the field hospitals which would be counter productive for everybody concerned as it would pile even more pressure on the beleaguered health service.
“I am therefore calling for an urgent assurance that the NHS will immediately refrain from recruiting anybody from social care by paying them higher wages. It wouldn’t take long for care home closures to fill hospital beds at the field hospitals
“People who work in care homes and those who provide care in people’s own homes deserve a bare minimum of £20,800 a year for a full time equivalent member of staff for a 40 hour week on £10 an hour .
“The responsibility for making this happen clearly rests with the 22 local authorities and the seven health boards in Wales."