Union says council’s pledge to social care policy is ‘not good enough’

Only adult social care workers directly employed by Portsmouth City Council will benefit from the Unison charters
Only adult social care workers directly employed by Portsmouth City Council will benefit from the Unison charters
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A UNION has branded Portsmouth council’s wage pledge to adult social care workers ‘not good enough’ as the authority said it could not be extended to contracted staff.

The council’s head of health and wellbeing, Councillor Matthew Winnington, yesterday (July 2) agreed to adopt policies set out by trade union Unison in its residential and ethical care charters.

Practices include ensuring travel pay for domiciliary care workers, less demanding schedules and maintaining worker-client consistency where possible.

But it was revealed that some guidelines, such as the guarantee of the real living wage – £9 an hour – would not be extended to workers contracted to the council by outside providers due to financial strain. They would also not be paid an hourly rate for sleep in shifts.

Speaking at the health and wellbeing meeting Tory spokesperson Cllr Luke Stubbs said: ‘These things are not affordable. To meet them we would put an unreasonable burden on taypayers.’

But Jon Woods, chairman of the Portsmouth city Unison branch, was concerned about the long-term impact this could have. ‘The bottom line is we all know about the crisis in social care,’ she said.

‘We have to fight to ensure there is more money put into the system as a whole. It’s not good enough for the council to say the wages are up to contractors. The council draws up the contracts so it needs to make sure the charter is fully implemented at that stage.’

Since 2010, government has cut social care spending in England by £7bn.

For Cllr Winnington meeting everything in the charters was not currently possible. He said: ‘Unison and other unions are absolutely right. If we were able to have the funding we needed from government of course all workers should be paid the real living wage.

‘But it’s a situation where we have had our funding cut year after year and unlike central government we have to produce a balanced budget every year.’

He added: ‘If we don’t get this right we’re letting down people in our residential and domestic care environments and not doing the best for the people in the city.’

A previous attempt to adopt the charters was rejected by the council in 2015.

Last June it was agreed that the lowest paid council workers would be paid the voluntary real living wage of £9 an hour, as set by the Living Wage Foundation. The statutory national living wage is £8.21.

The Local Government Association has predicted that the current system of adult social care across the country faces a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025.