Health and Social Care Workers: Recognition and Reward

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:01 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Labour, Erith and Thamesmead 2:01 pm, 25th June 2020

I speak today in favour of a pay increase for NHS healthcare workers. More than 500 constituents have signed the petition calling on the Government to recognise the hard work and sacrifice of healthcare workers with a pay increase. I completely agree that those working in the health and social care sector deserve a pay increase, not only as a recognition of their hard work during the crisis, but as a necessary step towards ensuring their future wellbeing.

For years, this Government have stood by as our NHS and care staff have given their all to provide a great healthcare service while their families fall further into poverty. In 2018, we saw a rise in the number of nurses using food banks, with one study finding that 38% of nurses struggle to buy food and that 50.5% had considered quitting their profession because of financial difficulties. More than half of all care workers are paid less than the real living wage and these workers are four times more likely to be on a zero-hours contract than the average worker.

This pay rise is not just about rewarding people for their hard work; it is about recognising the real and negative impact that low pay has had on our health and social care workers. Some 15% of workers in low-quality, low-paid jobs say that they have poor-quality health, which compares with a figure of 7% for those in good working environments. Covid-19 has thrived on inequality, with people in the poorest parts of England twice as likely to die from covid-19. Perhaps there is some correlation between that fact and the fact that our poorly paid social care workers are almost twice as likely to die from covid-19. Ensuring that health and social care staff work in a high-quality and well-paid environment benefits us all.

Covid-19 has highlighted how much the UK needs a well-functioning NHS and social care system, and how lucky we are to have access to healthcare. However, organisations are already warning of mass vacancies in the future. How are the Government planning to fulfil their promise, as well as to recruit more than 100,000 employees to the care sector, given that what they are offering is low-paid, high-stress, insecure work? I have been contacted throughout this crisis by many constituents urging me to support a pay rise for workers in the healthcare sector. Today, I am asking the Government to show all the hard-working NHS and social care staff in Erith and Thamesmead, and across the UK, the support they deserve and to give them this much-needed pay rise.