Clap for Heroes: Let’s get the basics right first

Many think Care Workers should be paid more for risking their lives.  We agree, but better pay is only part of the solution.

This month saw the attempted revival of the weekly round of applause for Key Workers under the new name Clap for Heroes – however, many believe the time for clapping has passed. Instead of clapping, Care Workers deserve to be paid fairly for the crucial role they play in our communities.

At Be Caring, we’re already demonstrating what’s possible. Unlike other providers, we’re paying frontline care colleagues from the moment they start to the moment they finish.

It’s a move that’s positively impacted job satisfaction and led to reduced absenteeism. We believe by getting the basics right and implementing small changes that matter, we’re building a solid foundation and a stable environment for colleagues. From here we can realise our more ambitious plans – nothing less than transforming the care sector!

You can read more about our plans to transform the sector here in our latest annual review.

Clapping won’t pay the bills

Understandably, many of us took to the streets last year to thank those who risked their lives at the start of the pandemic. We clapped proudly, banging our pots and pans in appreciation – even the Queen got involved. Clapping united the country and provided some much-needed cheer at a time when spirits were low. But it was also the start of a bigger conversation as many frontline workers felt overlooked and underpaid. The response to the latest Clap for Heroes has been muted – and it’s not hard to see why, when most frontline workers are on zero-hour contracts and receive no more than the national minimum wage.

Co-designing better care solutions

At Be Caring, we pay as much as we can above the national minimum wage, ensuring our colleagues benefit from better commissioned hourly rates. In effect, this means the more the Local Authority pays, the more we pay our colleagues. It’s one of the many benefits of being employee-owned as we have no Shareholders to consider. We’re also moving away from zero-hour contracts, with all colleagues offered minimum-hour contracts after a six-month period.

With social care budgets set to remain low for the foreseeable future, many care providers find their hands are tied – that is, unless we work towards a more efficient and personalised model of care, one that treats people as individuals and puts an end to unpaid wait-time between calls. We believe our Care Workers deserve to be paid fairly, but we know how difficult this is in the current system. Care providers and commissioners must therefore work in partnership to co-design an operating model within the current care system that:

  • identifies and removes failure demand (waste)
  • is focused on getting things right the first time, and
  • values the work that makes a difference.

A fairer future

What’s exciting for our colleagues and us is that we’re now starting to demonstrate what’s possible – paying more than 50% of Care Workers properly for all their time. Colleagues are paid from start to finish, not per call, which is standard practice across the sector, leaving Care Workers unpaid for their time travelling or gaps in-between calls.

We also spoke with CEO Sharon Lowrie about her vision for valuing Carers:

“It’s about really valuing our workforce. Paying them properly for the time they’re working and helping them develop skills in line with their goals. We’ve spent a lot of time getting the basics right and creating a new, more efficient model for delivering care. One that is now allowing us to pass savings directly to those who deserve it the most.

Last year, for the first time ever, we were able to give everyone a Christmas bonus and gift card. The future looks very promising and I’m excited to see what we can do next.”

So, while Clap for Heroes has its heart in the right place and we fully support all Carers who wish to take part, ultimately clapping isn’t the answer. We need the wider healthcare services to work together to make the current care model more efficient and fairer for all.

What our colleagues had to say

As an employee-owned social enterprise committed to listening to colleagues, we asked our Carers what they thought about Clap for Heroes.

Most felt that Carers weren’t paid enough for the work they do:

“Claps don’t pay my mortgage. A decent wage for the work done would make more sense. I shall not be clapping.”

“Paying us more would be a better acknowledgement of our worth”

“Clapping is all well and good – it makes me proud – but a pay rise would be more rewarding. In this day and age, essentials are not cheap.”

“I feel that the gesture was a nice idea, initially, as it was started by a member of the public who may not have been aware of carers’ working conditions…However, I find being rewarded with a badge particularly offensive and patronising; we don’t need praise, just fair wages. I think most care staff are motivated by a strong sense of altruism and compassion rather than the need for recognition.”

Others highlighted the difficulty and skilled nature of the job as reasons for better pay:

“I think everyone would agree that carers are not paid enough. Good care is a skilled job that not anyone can do. It takes personal attributes, skills, learning and real care – not everyone has those.”

“Clapping for carers means nothing to me personally. It does not change anything. We still have our jobs as normal in these tough times. The NHS are doing a great job but they’re not the only ones. Carers work just as hard and we are putting ourselves at risk every day.”

“Carers should be paid more. It is a really difficult job and the responsibility we have is enormous.”

Some called for action:

“I feel mocked by the clapping. I know people mean well, but that energy could be better distributed to direct action.”

We fully support these sentiments. Care Workers should be paid more, which is why we’re committed to transforming the way care is commissioned to achieve our ambition of paying all our Care Workers fully for all their work.