The Association of Directors for Adult Social Services (ADASS) has responded to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement of plans to increase the national minimum wage (NMW) with concerns that significant funding is needed for local government to manage the increase in April.

Although adult social care leaders welcomed higher wages for low-paid care staff, ADASS stated that the pay increase for workers aged 21 to 24 that will rise from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour would “further destabilise already fragile care markets” if it is not adequately funded.

The national living wage (NLW), which applies to those aged 25 and over, will also rise from £8.21 to £8.72 in a 6.2% increase. The NLW, introduced in 2016 at £7.20 an hour, has helped push up care workers' wages, with average pay rising by 27p per hour each year since its introduction.

ADASS said it was vital that the Government adequately funded the impact on social care and should make a “significant commitment” to funding the wage increases.

ADASS President Julie Ogley said the announcement "recognises the skilled and compassionate work that care workers undertake each and every day to support some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

However, she warned: “If (the) Government does not provide additional funding, then this will further destabilise already fragile care markets with a clear impact on those of us who need care and support.”

Skills for Care has also warned that the NLW has led to pay compression in the care sector, with wages for the poorest paid staff rising much more quickly than those earning more. Also the pay gap between those with more than five years’ experience and those with less than a year’s experience halved from 2017 to 2019, from 26p to 37p per hour to 15p per hour.

This led the sector workforce development body to suggest that it would be “challenging for employers to continue to reward workers with higher levels of experience, greater responsibilities, or those who are more qualified that are already paid above the NLW rate”.

United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) Policy Director Colin Angel said pay rates that attract workers to the home care sector and reward them for the vital work they do was a high priority for home care providers who, in many parts of the country, already have to pay well above the NLW to be competitive within their local labour market.

But he also said the social care sector could be in for another “tough financial year” as pay rates rise and, whilst the Government said it wanted to fix social care, there has been a consistent failure to address long-term funding.

He added: “Intelligence on the intentions of local authorities so far suggests that many councils will also fail to increase providers’ fee rates to meet the increased costs. Regrettably, there will continue to be more providers handing back contracts to councils because the fees paid are simply unsustainable.”

Last reviewed 7 January 2020