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June 14, 2016

Why we pay 5% More

Our Chief Executive David Williams explains why we’re paying 5% above the National Living Wage.

Most of us accept that the people who engage in giving care on the front line have very difficult and complex jobs and what they’re paid doesn’t reflect the level of responsibility they have in terms of delivering very intimate services to residents.

This doesn’t just affect those people who are directly involved in providing care: laundry workers, housekeepers, caterers and administrators all make a huge contribution to people’s lives.

Since taking up the post of CEO at the St Monica Trust last spring, paying our staff at a level that demonstrates how much we value them and ensuring a decent standard of living for all has been one of our key priorities.

And this begs the all-important question: shouldn’t we use the introduction of the National Living Wage as a way of making a statement that all these people are worth something?

Admittedly, the care sector is still suffering from the effects of the government’s austerity programme and many care providers are already struggling with reduced local authority funding. This creates what some would say is a compelling argument against introducing the National Living Wage on 1 April 2016.

However, before we end the debate at this juncture, let’s think about it in more detail.

Some of the cost of introducing the National Living wage must inevitably be passed on to local authorities and we need to engage in active debate about what that level should be. The flip side of the coin involves all of us in the industry looking at what we spend, how we spend it and how we demonstrate value for money in the services we provide.

We can’t simply throw our hands in the air and say that we can’t afford to pay the National Living Wage – and we can’t pile pressure on the government to help us fund this vital aspect of our service provision.

That isn’t the key to success in our sector either now or in the future.

Although the work of the St Monica Trust is funded through a combination of fee-paying income and our endowment, we have still had to set a number of efficiency targets to help us cope with the introduction of the National Living Wage. The term ‘efficiencies’ doesn’t just mean cutting costs and cutting back – it’s more about asking ourselves how we can spend our money more wisely. Do our procurement processes truly push for the very best prices? Can we increase our purchasing power by joining forces with other organisations in the care sector? Are there savings to be made by switching suppliers – in particular for energy?

Employees who feel least valued are often those people who work for a wage that doesn’t support them or their families. It makes sense that, if you want your people to deliver good care or good services to older people, you must ensure that these individuals are able to balance the other elements of their lives. Paying a wage that supports them and their families and prevents individuals from having to take two or even three jobs in order to survive is a fundamental part of that process.

We also have to professionalise the industry and make it attractive for newcomers to enter the sector – especially young people. Why would anyone in their right mind discriminate against young people coming into care and pay them less than the agreed standard for the National Living Wage?

For the Trust there was no question that we would pay everyone the same, regardless of age. We believe that this will encourage younger people to look at social care as a potential career when they leave school. Not paying them only encourages them to go and get a job in other sectors or places where they will not see a difference in pay because of their age.

Paying the National Living Wage to younger people is only part of the Trust’s larger strategy, which involves us going into schools and talking about what a career in care can look like. We need to challenge stereotypes that the care sector pays less than someone working in a fast food restaurant and demonstrate to younger people that they can have a successful and fulfilling career in social care.

Setting our lowest rate of pay at 5% above the National Living Wage fits the St Monica Trust’s ethos as an organisation. It is a clear statement to our staff: we value your contribution and we want to ensure that you get the chance to have a decent standard of living.

We see setting our lowest rate of pay at 5% above the National Living Wage as an investment in our staff and a way of acknowledging the vital contribution they make to our residents every single day of the year.

What better value for money is there than that?

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