Thank you for contacting me about social care, key workers and the National Living Wage.
I share your admiration for the frontline workers who are making immense sacrifices to help those affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The second national lockdown presents new challenges and our key workers are once again supporting people across the country.
I welcome the Government's commitment to supporting the low-paid and the decision to follow the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission and increase the NLW by 2.2 per cent from £8.72 to £8.91. This increase will be effective from April 2021 and will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time.
I am also glad that the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid pledged to raise the NLW further, to two-thirds of median earnings. This is expected to be £10.50 by 2024, making the UK the first major economy in the world to set such an ambition. This rise in the National Living Wage will be especially important for those whose incomes have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NLW rates are different from the Living Wage which is a voluntary minimum rate of pay endorsed by the Living Wage Foundation. I would like to add that I support the work of the Living Wage Foundation and would encourage employers to commit to paying the Living Wage rates where they can.
On social care and supporting care workers, I understand that the Government is considering a range of proposals for social care funding, to help to meet the cost of a reformed social care system. I am assured that many options are being considered.
Money alone will not fix the problem and reform is needed to encourage high standards across the whole country. It is vital that we consider ways of better joining up health and care services, and I am encouraged by the use of the Better Care Fund to assist local government and the NHS with the implementation of integrated health and care services.
The work carried out by carers is absolutely vital, ensuring that people who need support are able to live full, rewarding lives. 1.6m people work in social care, which is 22 per cent higher than ten years ago.
I was pleased that, during 2019, the Government launched the 'Every Day is Different' campaign, to recruit more staff to the care sector and provide further information about the different types of work carers do, and what qualifications might be required for each role.
Since 2015 local authorities have had greater flexibility over the use of the council tax social care precept, so they can choose to raise extra money, as well as retain savings from the New Homes Bonus, totalling £240 million. In the Spending Round in September 2019, an extra £1.5 billion was made available to councils for adult social care services. This funding should be viewed as a significant down payment as we move towards a long term funding solution.
During the 2019 General Election Campaign the Conservative Manifesto made clear that we must build the same level of consensus on social care that we have already built on the NHS, across political parties, so that an answer can be brought forward that solves the problem, commands the widest possible support, and stands the test of time. I stand by this commitment, and urge my colleagues and constituents of all political beliefs to take part in a conversation about establishing a care system fit for the 21st century. As part of this, it will be essential to think further about care workers' training, pay and conditions.
I will continue to monitor this issue closely, and would be proud to speak up on behalf of care workers as part of this debate.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP