Skint care workers 'abandoning careers' to work in Amazon warehouses for £12.71

A Labour conference fringe event, hosted by Mirror editor Alison Phillips, heard workers are using food banks and sleeping in their cars – as Andy Burnham called for them to get the same pay as the NHS

Industry chief John Hughes sounded the warning at Labour conference
Industry chief John Hughes sounded the warning at Labour conference

Skint care workers are abandoning the stricken service to work in Amazon warehouses for £12.71 an hour, an industry chief warned today.

John Hughes of Community Integrated Care said workers are using food banks, unable to afford relatives’ funerals and sleeping in cars.

He branded the situation a “disgrace” at a conference fringe event in Brighton hosted by the Future Social Care Coalition, chaired by Mirror editor Alison Phillips.

Mr Hughes said: “The reality at the moment is, when there’s a raise in national minimum wage you’re having to fight for that.

“I see the stress colleagues are under, because an Amazon warehouse that will open can pay people £12.71.

Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall speaking at the event


Daily Mirror/Ian Vogler)

“And people love this sector, I love this sector, but you see people leaving it because they can’t stay in it much longer.

“People who’ve dedicated a lifetime to making a difference to other people.”

He warned “this is an absolute crisis” and “if things carry on”, providers will focus on higher-funded care and hand more difficult services back to the state.

Another industry figure denied being “mean” but warned he had no option to raise wages above £9.06 an hour.

Terry Rich, chair of the Avenues Group, told the event he was “wholly dependent” on funds from councils – which don’t get enough to keep up with rising prices.

It came as Labour conference delegates backed a motion on paying care workers “at least” £15 an hour.

Unison general secretary Christine McAnea


Daily Mirror/Ian Vogler)

Speaking at the fringe, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham called for carers to get at the very least £18,500 a year plus NHS pensions and benefits.

Mr Burnham suggested carers should be part of the NHS Agenda for Change system, with clear bands and opportunities to progress like nurses and porters.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said she backed a £15-an-hour wage for carers but added: “I’m realistic- it should be at least the Living Wage.”

Labour MP Helen Hayes, Co-Chair of the all-parliamentary group on Adult Social Care, suggested care workers could get £30,000 including pension.

She accused Tory ministers of “gaslighting the social care sector” last year by claiming a “protective ring” was thrown around homes.

It was “denying the lived experience on the ground of a sector that had really been the last thought on the government’s mind as they entered the pandemic,” she said.

Shadow Care Minister Liz Kendall said social care should be part of a “modernised welfare system” and is “a new frontier of the welfare state”.

Calling for the sector to be as much a part of infrastructure as railways or roads, she said: “Transforming social care is the challenge of our generation.”

Former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake slammed Boris Johnson ’s plan to fix the system with a National Insurance hike split between NHS and care.

He said of £5.4bn the Tories will hand care over three years, £2.5bn will have to fund a new cap on lifetime contributions.

The remaining £2.9bn is less than a third of what is needed, Lord Kerslake said. He wanted a crisis “is coming” with “serious consequences” if a new solution is not found.

Unison chief Ms McAnea added: “There is no plan. We all know that, there is no plan.”

She said the Tory plan would £500m over three years to the workforce and would take more than that just to get them to the living wage.

Mr Burnham added: “What’s stopped us getting a solution is the cowardice of politicians I’m afraid on all sides going back some time.

“It is fixable with the will… it just requires courage and clarity and confidence in making a case to the public.”

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