‘I’m constantly working overtime but relying on credit cards’: Frontline Covid staff and their two-year fight for a living wage

As a caregiver in Salford Yemi Opere often finds herself working overtime just to make ends meet.

The 36-year-old may spend days away from his young children in order to earn enough to support them.

His long working hours and low salary forced him to rely much of his spending on credit cards.

But, along with thousands of others in the industry, his struggles are finally set to appease on the real living wage.

Salford City Council has announced it will commit to paying all social workers in the city the pay rise from April 1.

The pay rise will benefit more than 4,000 social workers in Salford and will raise wages to £9.90 an hour.

Yemi thinks the announcement is finally a step in the right direction.

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“I have two kids and a partner and they know what it’s like for me not to be home,” he said.

“We work all those hours and it’s not reflected in our salary. It was a long process.

“I am overjoyed and happy that it is finally going in the right direction.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the work we do. In this profession, you don’t get a lot of praise or recognition, it’s not easy to find.

“With inflation and falling interest rates, our salary hasn’t really reflected that.

“It’s still stagnant and it’s stayed the same.



Social workers fight for better pay

“As a result, it put pressure on me to have to put things on credit cards. Now I won’t need them as much.

“Having the elevation will give me more comfort to be able to support my family and have a better quality of life.

“I provide my residents with high quality support, so it’s good that I can do that for my family and ease the pressures.”

Carer Paul Downs, who lives in Bolton, also appreciates finally being recognized for the work of carers.

And while he appreciates the pay rise, he thinks more needs to be done to support those working in the industry.

It’s a wonderful thing to be paid £9.90, but when you look at what support workers are going through, it’s still not enough,’ he told the MEN

“There are a lot of advantages, but I don’t think it will solve the problems.

“I think a lot of people will think, ‘For 20p less I can stack shelves and don’t have to get spat on’.

“There’s a lot on your shoulders for such a small amount of money.

“I don’t think a lot will change, but it’s a start. I don’t think things will change long term, but it’s a bit of a boost to get a raise.

“I appreciate it, but I think the crisis is a little too deep and too big for it to solve a lot of problems.”

Support worker Melissa Thomas, who lives in Peel Green with her two children, feels the pay rise will allow her to spend more time at home.

“We were working about 80 hours a week during the pandemic,” she said.

“I choose my job over my kids most of the time, so this pay raise will give me more time at home.



Caregivers have been on the front line throughout the pandemic

“It’s just enjoying it and being recognized. People are fighting for better pay for us and that’s what’s important.

City Mayor Paul Dennett said: ‘We have been working hard with colleagues from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as we prepare next year’s budget and I am delighted to report that all our carers, our lockdown heroes, will get the real Living Wage. This is absolutely definitely the right thing to do, our caregivers who have been actively serving as our fourth emergency department throughout the pandemic deserve every penny!

“We have been working to extend real living wage to social service workers for some time and it is more important than ever after two years of protecting and caring for our most vulnerable, it is only morally fair and just that we recognize their hard work and dedication.

“We have called on the government to deal with the health and social crisis, but we cannot continue to sit and watch the exodus of people from the sector

“This decision is one of the ways we are fighting poverty in the city, because they are among the lowest paid workers. The National Living Wage will be £9.50 from April 2022. The Real Living Wage will take it up to £9.90 per hour, or an additional £768 per year, which will make a definite difference to people’s lives.

“At a time when the cost of living is rising, the Care Quality Commission has found that vacancies in social care have doubled since April 2021, we need to value and keep people engaged and caring in these critical roles at the within our city, taking care of our loved ones those

“We are proud to work to be a living wage city and it is more important than ever that no one is left behind. We are asking businesses and city agencies to join us in paying the Real Living Wage, to put money back into the purses and pockets of local people. »




Dr Tom Tasker, GP and Chairman of the NHS Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, added: ‘Social workers play a vital role in caring for some of Salford’s most vulnerable people, ensuring they receive the best care possible.

“We recognize that all social workers have stimulating and demanding work which has been particularly difficult throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am delighted that our commitment to real living wage means that the salaries of all social workers will be increased, and I would like to personally thank all care staff for their valuable contribution to the health and care system in Salford.

“The cost of living is rising and we appreciate the commitment that each of our social workers puts into their challenging role. It is very important that we keep these people in these roles to care for our family, friends and loved ones.

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