Fear over cost of liv­ing wage

Jewish Care will have to find £2m more an­nu­ally. But there are other is­sues

The Jewish Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - BYBARRYTOBERMAN

GE­ORGE OS­BORNE’S head­line­grab­bing Bud­get com­mit­ment to a sub­stan­tially in­creased na­tional liv­ing wage caught char­ity bosses on the hop. Four months on, Jewish Care chief ex­ec­u­tive, Si­mon Mor­ris, can put a price on it in his char­ity’s terms — and it is a high one.

The liv­ing wage re­places the cur­rent min­i­mum wage of £6.50 an hour for over-25s. It will rise to £7.20 from next April and to at least £9 from 2020. The im­pact will be sig­nif­i­cant for wel­fare char­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly those pro­vid­ing res­i­den­tial care for the el­derly, which are al­ready feel­ing the pinch fol­low­ing re­duced lo­cal author­ity con­tri­bu­tions.

Hav­ing last year awarded a nine per cent salary rise to the low­est paid 17 per cent of its work­force, Mr Mor­ris es­ti­mates that meet­ing the £7.20 min­i­mum from April 2016 will be a man­age­able £150,000. It will be a dif­fer­ent story in 2020, given that half its 1,400 employees cur­rently earn be­low £9 an hour. His es­ti­mate is that the char­ity will have to find at least £2 mil­lion an­nu­ally to meet the ex­tra staffing costs.

Those on the low­est wage scale in­clude do­mes­tic, clean­ing, kitchen and laun­dry staff. “But by 2020 it’s im­pact­ing on care staff — and we are talk­ing front-line care staff,” he points out. “A care worker in a home, a home care worker, a mem­ber of staff in one of our de­men­tia day cen­tres, a mem­ber of staff in the So­bell day cen­tre [Gold­ers Green] — the bulk of our staff who do the care.”

Mr Mor­ris — who “fully sup­ports” the prin­ci­ple of rais­ing salary lev­els for the low­est paid — says the £2 mil­lion es­ti­mate does not take ac­count of the fact that Jewish Care has tra­di­tion­ally paid above the min­i­mum wage in or­der to at­tract the best staff.

He also high­lights an un­in­tended con­se­quence of the Chan­cel­lor’s move; the ef­fect on pay dif­fer­en­tials. “Ev­ery­one knows that at work, dif­fer­en­tials are im­por­tant. There­fore, if we’ve moved all our car­ers on to £9 an hour, then the gap be­tween be­ing a carer and be­ing a team leader is very small. And the team lead­ers have great re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“So we are try­ing to work through the knock-on ef­fect. But it’s dif­fi­cult to come up with a num­ber be­cause the gov­ern­ment’s fig­ure could end up be­ing over £9.”

With res­i­dents ac­cepted solely on the ba­sis of need, rather than abil­ity to pay, two-thirds of those in its care homes are funded through lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Care re­quire­ments have to take ac­count of the fact that peo­ple now en­ter a home in their 90s with a greater level of frailty. The av­er­age weekly short­fall be­tween the cost of care and the lo­cal author­ity al­lo­ca­tion is £371 per res­i­dent, leav­ing a bud­getary hole cur­rently ex­ceed­ing £3 mil­lion an­nu­ally, even af­ter con­tri­bu­tions from fam­i­lies.

Though ap­pre­ci­at­ing the plight of cash-strapped coun­cils, “we have to

Jewish Care needs to keep at­tract­ing the best staff in a more com­pet­i­tive mar­ket

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