Key workers demand living wage after carer ‘left to survive on food donations when hit by coronavirus’

‘I feel like a Roman gladiator going into the ring,’ care worker says

Zoe Tidman
Thursday 28 May 2020 07:33
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Clap for carers: people around the nation clap for 9th week

The government is facing calls to fund a living wage for key workers after a carer claimed she had to rely on food donations when she got coronavirus.

A petition calling for higher salaries for care workers and social care staff has been launched by a woman who said she struggled financially when she fell ill with the virus.

Tabitha* suffered from coronavirus for nearly a month, and turned to food donations as her low-paid, zero-hour contract job left little support, according to a charity leading the campaign for better pay.

Citizens UK is demanding a real living wage – £9.30 an hour, or £10.75 in London ​– for all key workers, and is starting the campaign by calling for the social care sector to get an immediate £1.4bn cash boost to increase staff pay.

Tabitha, the care worker who started the petition, said: “We appreciate the Thursday night clapping, but I feel like a Roman gladiator going into the ring.

“Everyone is clapping you, but you’re pitting yourself against a deadly disease without the proper pay and protection.”

The care worker from Wales added: “That’s why I’ve launched this petition to ask Matt Hancock to properly fund social care so staff like me and many others can receive the real living wage.”

Citizens UK said care and key workers will be uploading videos to Twitter to ask the government to improve pay in the sector, while people can put “Living Wage for Key Workers” posters in their windows to show their support.

A London teacher has also created a dance for care workers that people can perform on TikTok for the campaign.

John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, added his support to the campaign, saying: “It is just morally wrong to put our care workers on the front line in the face of infection and potential death, with limited personal protective equipment, and to do that for poverty pay.

“For me this is simply unacceptable. I hope that if this epidemic teaches us anything, it will be to draw us back to justice, compassion and love.”

He said that is why he is supporting the campaign, “to prioritise the proper funding of social care”.

Yvonne Wade, deputy headteacher at St Antony’s School in Newham, said: “We have come together from across the UK – from Wales to Manchester and Nottingham – to launch this campaign for a living wage for key workers, and that needs to start immediately with a real living wage for care workers.

“We’ve heard you raise the praise for our care and key workers, now let’s raise their wage.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “We recognise the outstanding work being done by key workers up and down the UK in response to the current crisis.

“We have provided £3.2bn to local authorities to address Covid-19 pressures, including adult social care.”

They added: “Changes made on 1 April mean that millions of workers, including those with key worker status, are benefiting from increases to the national living wage and minimum wage rates for younger workers. We remain committed to helping hard working individuals earn more whilst levelling up this country.”

*Name changed to protect identity

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