The Living Wage Foundation has called for the real Living Wage to be applied in the social care sector and has released a policy paper exploring low pay in this sector across the UK.

This policy paper looks at the social care sector, a sector characterised by high numbers of jobs paying below the real Living Wage as well as insecure work.

The real Living Wage is the only wage rate calculation based on what people need to live on, and it currently stands at £12.00 (UK) and £13.15 (London).

The policy paper explores:

  • How local government funding is a key feature driving low pay in social care
  • How the real Living Wage would mitigate the negative impacts of low pay in social care
  • Policy recommendations and considerations for implementation.

A few of the key points of the policy:

  • The pay received by social care workers does not accurately reflect the vital, skilled, and demanding work that they do. 43% of adult social care workers in England are paid below the real Living Wage, while in London, 80% of adult social care workers earn less than the London Living Wage.
  • Constrained public funding for the delivery of care is a key factor in social care workers’ low pay. Local governments are primarily the main commissioner of social care services, yet local government budgets have seen reductions in recent years, constraining wages in this sector.
  • UK government has the power to change this by making a policy commitment to the real Living Wage in the social care sector. They can do this by providing a funding uplift to enable payment of the real Living Wage for social care workers within the cost of care delivery. Due to similar devolved government interventions, hundreds of thousands of social care workers in Scotland and Wales already receive the real Living Wage as the minimum pay floor.
  • Paying at least the real Living Wage in social care would bring both national and local economic benefits. Skills for Care estimates that for every £1 invested in social care, £1.75 would be generated in the wider economy.


  • Pay at least the real Living Wage for every hour worked, including sleep-in shifts and in-work travel time.
  • Start with publicly funded adult social care. Put in place sufficient funding, delivery mechanisms, and requirements for the commissioners of social care to raise the wages of adult social care workers across the care they fund, including care funded by Direct Payments.
  • Initiate a process with employers and workers’ representatives to ensure the whole social care sector is paid at least the real Living Wage – guaranteed through provider accreditation, and with a broader remit to improve workers' terms and conditions.

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