Boost for carers amid national living wage changes

Care providers for residential placements are to see an extra £33 million to “ensure a sustainable supply of care services” in the face of living wage increases.

From April 1, 2024, workers aged 21 and over will be entitled to the National Living Wage of £11.44 – up from the National Minimum Wage which is £10.18 for over 21s and £10.42 for over 23s.

Essex County Council has said that they could not guarantee staff members in the care sector will receive a pay increase from the increased payment to providers.

But the extra money for 2024/25 will ensure the market remains sustainable with changes to national wage policy, the council says.

The decision comes after the council agreed to a two per cent increase in its adult social care precept which will help fill the increase from the £740m total spend on adult social care in 2023/24 to the £810m this year.

Councillor John Spence, cabinet member for adult social care said: “Overall those who do the work are benefiting. We are assured they will all be getting the minimum living wage or more and we continue to explore ways in which we can further enhance health, well-being and remuneration through benefits.”

Essex County Council says uplifts for care providers that operate supported living, older persons residential and nursing care and extra care settings, and for those that work with working-age adults with disabilities and mental health, support needs are the minimum required to enable providers to keep pace with financial pressures from inflation and wage increases.

Cllr Spence added: “We cannot guarantee that every element gets through what we can be very clear on is all our providers must be paying the minimum living wage which thanks to the Government is going to see a very significant real terms increase value this year.

“We are also consulting the market about other ways in which benefits can feed through to the staff who do the work.”

A statement as part of a decision said: “The council is committed to doing what we can to increase funding in the care market and ensure that the sector as a whole is sustainable.

“We want to make our contracts more attractive for providers, investing in care and support services so that we can help grow capacity and enable providers to attract, recruit and retain through improved terms and conditions for their workforce.

“The council recognises the critical and valued work that care workers across Essex perform, supporting the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The council also recognises the care market has experienced a challenging economic climate, in the light of high inflation, labour market constraints, and increasing interest rates.

“The key drivers that define the uplift awarded by the Council are increases to the National Living Wage (NLW) and increases to general inflation, which is represented within the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

“The majority of the cost to providers in delivering services comes from staffing and wages, with particular sensitivity to wage increases as a result of care staff often being paid close to the NLW rate.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter