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Living Wage a welcome boost for homecare firms, staff and clients in Islington

The Living Wage helps the homecare sector, according to new evidence released today by Islington Council showing that it makes for better staff performance, retention, and morale.

The north London local authority contractually requires all three of its major homecare providers – Allied Healthcare, London Care, and Sevacare – to pay their Islington-based staff at least the London Living Wage (LLW) – including for their time spent travelling between appointments.

Earlier this year, the government proposed plans to introduce a lower, national ‘living wage’ of £7.20 an hour from April next year – rising to £9.00 by 2020.

This prompted providers to warn that the move could result in “catastrophic failure” in the homecare market (see Notes to Editors) unless extra money was put into the system. 

However, London Care – the fourth largest homecare provider in the UK – has pointed to notable improvements in staff wellbeing as a result of higher wages, enabling many of their care workers to go home in the holidays to their families who live abroad.

In one case, a London Care homecare worker said that the LLW meant she could afford to return home to the Caribbean to bury her recently deceased mother.

Prior to introducing the LLW in 2014, turnover among London Care staff averaged over 10%. Now, it is less than 3%.

Islington Council’s executive member for finance and performance, Cllr Andy Hull, said:

“Islington Council believes that no-one should have to do a hard day’s work for less than they can live on.

“To make this a reality, we had to put our money where our mouth is and pay providers enough to remunerate their staff properly.

“The results – better retention, performance, and morale – are striking.

“We know these are difficult times for cash-strapped councils due to unprecedented government cuts, but we’re calling on other local authorities to follow suit and make sure that people who are doing some of the most important work in our society take home a fair day’s pay.”

Policy Director of London Care, Max Wurr, said: “London Care rolled out the LLW to care staff earlier this year and the benefits were almost immediately obvious. Retention and recruitment – serious struggles in social care - improved dramatically. Care workers became more motivated and so became more reliable, supportive, happier and healthier – all of which directly benefits service users.

“We’re confident the business case will prove well-founded. Stable, reliable, high quality care services deliver improved outcomes for individuals and save the health and social care system money. In an era of dwindling resources, the LLW is not just an attractive option – it’s the only sustainable one.”

Pamela, a homecare worker for London Care, said: “The pay increase to the London Living Wage with travel has made a huge difference to my life. Working at a better hourly rate means I am able to treat myself after a hard working week and treat my family for their birthdays, etc. The pay increase means I can stay in London working for London Care and I do not need to have any extra jobs on the side.”

In 2012, Islington was the joint-first council to become an accredited Living Wage employer. All directly employed council staff and 98% of its contracted staff are now paid at least the London Living Wage, including 519 homecare workers.

In October 2014, the council announced plans for its first Living Wage care home, St Anne’s.

Following sustained efforts from the council and local charities and businesses over the past year, the number of Living Wage accredited employers in the borough has doubled to over 90 – the highest concentration in the country.

Local employers interested in becoming a living wage employer can find out more by clicking here.