Care home bosses have called the first wave of government payouts intended to halt an exodus of workers “derisory”, after it emerged some operators had received grants of just £60 a person before tax.
The government has offered amounts from a “retention and recruitment” fund launched by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, that equate to £150 and £155 a worker in some counties and £60 in Norfolk, where one angry manager said it was barely enough to “buy a few boxes of Celebrations”.
“It’s a joke and an insult,” said Raj Sehgal, who runs four care homes in Norfolk. “How are you supposed to retain people for £60 and that is before tax. I am just so angry. It is a slap in the face for every care worker that has worked throughout the pandemic.” He said he was planning to top up the payments to about £200 himself.
The sums emerged as councils began distributing cash from the £162.5m fund announced by the government in October, by which time an estimated 60,000 care staff had quit in the previous six months, some joining employers such as Amazon which has been offering £3,000 signing bonuses. Half of local authorities in England had to respond to a care home closure or bankruptcy in the last six months, according to survey results published in November by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.
In response to the growing staffing crisis, the government announced a further £300m of retention money on Friday, which Vic Rayner, the chief executive of the National Care Forum, described as “extremely welcome”. But she added: “It is imperative that the funding gets straight to the frontline in order that each and every care worker feels the benefit of this immediately.”
Announcing the additional cash to pay for bonuses and bring forward planned pay rises for care staff, fund overtime and staff banks, Javid said: “This new funding will support our incredible workforce by recruiting new staff and rewarding those who have done so much during this pandemic.” In Scotland and Wales, the governments have offered care workers £500 bonuses.
Jo Land, the chief executive of the Avenues Group which employs 1,700 staff in homes for people with learning disabilities across south-east England and Shropshire, has so far been offered the equivalent of £150 a worker by Surrey county council.
“I think the amount is derisory,” she said. “These are people working at the frontline for the best part of two years. We are losing staff to Amazon, supermarkets and the NHS.”
She said £150 – or about £102 for a full-time worker after tax and national insurance contributions – would not stop anyone filling out an application form now for a better-paid job.
Operators expect staff will have to pay tax and national insurance on the bonus and that they will have to pay employers’ national insurance and pension contributions, increasing the strain on already stretched finances.
A spokesperson for the Future Social Care Coalition, which is campaigning for a better deal for workers, said: “Anything is better than nothing for the hundreds of thousands of dedicated care workers who are on the government’s minimum wage and never got a bonus last Christmas. But when compared to bonuses being paid in Wales and Scotland and after 21 months of dedicated work it is clear that care and support workers are being shortchanged.”
Norfolk county council’s executive director of adult social services, James Bullion, said it decided to channel 75% of the workforce grant it received so far to home care providers because of the acute shortages. They are so far receiving £245 each while each care home will receive £1,600, which if divided among a large staff can work out at £60 or less.