QUESTIONS about how to make care workers feel valued were raised as their pay was discussed by Oxfordshire County Councillors last week.

Over the last few months, the council's performance scrutiny committee has been looking into why Oxfordshire pays £25 for every hour of home care given, one of the highest rates in the country, when the national average is £16.

Across the UK, the rate paid for care does not translate into the amount paid directly to carers who visit people in their homes.

At the committee's meeting on Thursday, July 9, council officers Stephen Chandler and Rachel Pirie, gave an update on what was begin done to bring down the costs of care, while making sure that carers were paid better.

Mr Chandler, director of adult and housing services, said: "I want to make it much more explicit that the hourly rate we pay translates into the hourly rate received by the member of staff."

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To do this, he said companies should be told more of the money should reach the pockets of carers as the council hired them through a tendering process.

A report Mr Chandler prepared for the committee found that the high price of care was down to three main factors: a need to recruit more care staff in the county; a high number of wealthy people paying for their own care influencing the price paid from the public purse, and the council's own 'historic strategy' of encouraging new businesses to set up as home carers.

He also addressed the committee as said: “You are all politicians in your own right. I would encourage you when lobbying your national representatives, when they think of adult social care and of sustainable funding going forward we need to explicitly make sure that is targeted on workforce benefits."

Mr Chandler said social care workers were not often celebrated in the same way as healthcare staff, but that they should be.

In his address to the committee, he emphatically described caring as a profession.

Committee chairwoman Liz Brighouse said home carers in Oxfordshire saw the gap between what they were paid and what their companies received.

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She agreed with Mr Chandler that more should be done to support them through 'continuous professional development' which would help to create‘new generation of care workers who feel valued’.

Committee member Jenny Hannaby said she was pleased the council would start to monitor what the workforce was getting paid but added more could be done.

The Lib Dem councillor said home carers did not often receive expenses for the fuel they used driving between their different clients, which often cut into the pay of rural workers more because of long distances driven.

Committee member Liz Leffman asked what was being done to make sure enough people were being recruited into care jobs.

She said Central Government changes to immigration law after Brexit might cause a slump in the numbers of workers coming into care, as many are from overseas.

But council officer Ms Pirie said that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic had led some people out of work to consider careers in care when they had not before.