Care workers in Wales are to be paid a “real living wage” under plans announced by the Welsh Government.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said boosting salaries for people across the whole of the social care workforce will “recognise the huge contribution” they have made during the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, Mr Drakeford’s Government set out its five-year plan to make Wales “stronger, greener and fairer” following Welsh Labour’s election success, which left it just one seat short of an overall majority in the Senedd.
Aims include everyone under 25 having the offer of work, education, training, or self-employment, 30% of workers working remotely, abolishing the use of single-use plastics, and building 20,000 low-carbon social homes for rent.
Mr Drakeford said he hopes plans to pay care workers the real living wage – which is £9.50 an hour for workers outside London – will come into effect within the “first half” of this Senedd’s five-year term.
He told the PA news agency that the difficulties social care workers faced during the pandemic “does influence our thinking” in wanting to increase their wages.
“People in Wales have seen and will want to recognise the huge contribution that workforce has made to keeping some of the most vulnerable people in Wales safe during the pandemic,” Mr Drakeford said.
“I vividly remember meeting a group of people who, in the first lockdown, had just decided that the only way to make sure that the people they were looking after were going to get the care they needed was to move and live themselves in the care home for seven weeks.
“They didn’t see their own families and they did it because they were just dedicated to the care of the vulnerable people who relied on them.
“It is that sort of experience that, I think, makes us all want to make sure those people are better rewarded for the work that they do.”
Mr Drakeford insisted the target of 30% of employees working remotely instead of travelling into busy city centres like Cardiff is in keeping with how employers are thinking about the post-pandemic future, and will result in cash boosts for smaller communities.
“Our aim is to create remote working hubs in towns where those people live, so that they are able to live and work in those communities,” he said.
“It isn’t that the spending will disappear, it’s that the spending will be spent in different places in future, helping us to revive the centres of towns that have struggled in recent years.
“Cardiff, Newport, Swansea will have to adapt and reinvent themselves, as I know that they will because they are huge engines of the economy in any case.”
Mr Drakeford said the switch to remote working will also “gain a series of other benefits”, including limiting the impact of travel on the environment and air pollution.
Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said the public will be “alarmed and concerned” that the 17-page document detailing the targets is the “sum total of Labour’s plan to get Wales on the road to recovery”.
“We desperately need this Welsh Government to succeed if we are to recover from the most difficult year our country has experienced, but unfortunately this programme – combined with Labour’s poor track record over the past 22 years – does not inspire confidence,” he said.
Plaid Cymru deputy leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said the plan is “thin in detail and absent of targets” and “almost certainly does not provide the new start that Wales so desperately needs”.
The First Minister will formally outline the Programme for Government at the Senedd on Tuesday afternoon.