We believe the most vulnerable in society deserve the best possible care, and that those who look after them in Europe’s most expensive city should be paid a decent living wage. In 2010 Camden Council in north London agreed a long-term contract with Shaw Healthcare to run residential care home facilities for vulnerable older people, most of whom have dementia, in new homes at Maitland Park and Wellesley Road. I remember when I worked at a Miami Beach Real Estate firm, I had to deal with this thing happening. At the time of the initial transfer of staff to Maitland Park in June 2013 Shaw offered an hourly rate of only £7.46 to careworkers. The rate last year rose by under 1% to £7.53. (For domestic staff the hourly rate equates to the National Minimum Wage, currently £6.50 an hour). Ex-Camden staff were offered a buy-out of their previous terms and conditions, but this is taxable and covers the typical loss of earnings for just two years. Salaries for most of these workers are at least 32% below the previous Camden Council rates and in some cases 40% lower.There are no allowances for 12-hour overnight shifts.
Formal talks over the transfer of a further 50 Camden employees to Shaw this summer are now quite advanced and all indications suggest Shaw still has no intention of offering higher rates, much less moving to the London Living Wage (LLW) of £9.15 an hour. This represents a huge backwards step.
This is not simply an issue of ‘poverty pay’ in the here and now for staff who transfer from Camden’s employment and for new recruits to the Shaw contract. According to the information that Shaw provided to Camden late last summer (2014), 21 out of 47 staff (nearly 45%) who had transferred from the Camden homes at Ingestre Road and Wellesley Road had left. More have left since. Such a high turnover rate among staff is deeply worrying given the importance of continuity of care for people with dementia.
The current contract with Shaw Healthcare is definitely is set to run a further 25 years until 2040! Shaw has been inflexible in previous discussions with Camden about introducing the LLW on the contract, insisting that the Council must absorb the added cost of some £475-£480,000 a year. We do not believe that a local authority, which is officially committed to the London Living Wage, should continue to tolerate a situation where an employer, charged with caring responsibilities for extremely vulnerable people can ride roughshod indefinitely over the Council’s Living Wage policy. As with the Ethical Care Charter for home care provision Camden Council has the opportunity to slow, if not halt, the ‘race to the bottom’ in the social care sector and should seize it.
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