North East care home bosses call for better pay for workers, saying 'it isn't enough'

A County Durham care home owner has told ITV Tyne Tees the planned £5.4 billion sourced from the National Insurance rise announced by the government simply "isn't enough" to solve the nation's social care crisis.

The Government said it has "provided record funding" to boost the workforce during this difficult time.

Justin Russi of Hawthorns Lodge Care Group said he understands Durham County Council is considering plans to raise the entry level wage for a care assistant to £9.50 an hour. That has not been confirmed by the council, but Mr Russi said although he welcomes a rise in that region, it still is not enough.

He said: "We’re asking for our staff to be paid £11.50. Clearly that is a very large expenditure. It’s something that local authorities can’t be expected to foot, so a bill like that really has to be looked at by Central Government.

"We asked for £7 billion to keep the care sector in the current position that it's in and they’ve offered £5.4 billion over a number of years. Clearly that isn’t enough. Clearly that is a sticking plaster and clearly that doesn’t recognise the work that goes in, and to turn round and say that there is a shortage. Well there is a shortage for a reason."

Care home staff say they feel 'underappreciated'

Two of Mr Russi's staff members said they have considered quitting the sector altogether and find it difficult to survive on the current rate.

Senior Carer, Coral Knox, said: "After tax and all the other deductions I’m coming out with £8.30. I’m dealing with lives. I’m dealing with drugs. I’m dealing with heartache. What am I doing? I’d be better off if I worked in a factory or if I worked packing shelves somewhere."

Her colleague, Senior Carer, Kim Hope, added: "You feel under appreciated. Like I say, you study, you do lots of course work with it all and all of us have felt like leaving, but our hearts are in this now. You wouldn’t get them coming from school. We’ve had them come in on their work experience. Some have stayed. Some haven’t, because of what the pay is."

To compound the issue of care worker shortages, another care home in County Durham told ITV News it has been forced to close its nursing floor, due a lack of nurses.

Dipton Manor care home near Stanley has confirmed its 15 nursing beds will be decommissioned at the end of February.

Dipton Manor Care Home near Stanley, County Durham Credit: ITV News

Vanessa Cutler, the Operations Manager of the Manor Care Home Group, which runs the home, said: "We can’t compete against agency rates of pay, you know, so that’s the situation we are in and it’s very sad and it’s very sad to see the nurses go, because they are very valued and, you know, they do an amazing job here."

She said replacing the current nurses with agency nurses is not possible, adding: "There’s not that rapport and you need a rapport. This is a place where they live. This is their home and it just doesn’t happen with agency."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We appreciate the incredible efforts of adult social care staff throughout the pandemic and have provided record funding to boost the workforce during this difficult time.

"To further support the sector, in the past 12 months we have made almost £600 million available specifically for recruitment and retention, launched our Made with Care recruitment campaign and expanded the Health and Care Visa scheme to include care workers."