New forum 'should prioritise workers' pay and conditions'

By Louise Cullen

Image source, Getty Images/gpointstudio

Trade unions have called for the improvement of pay and conditions to be a priority for a new Social Care Fair Work Forum.

The NI forum's aim is to help recruit, develop and retain skilled workers in the social care sector.

Health union, Unison, said the pandemic exposed the sector's fragility.

"Investing in better pay, terms and conditions and training will improve standards of care," said Regional Secretary Patricia McKeown.

"It will also improve the lives and health outcomes of the workers themselves, who are among the lowest paid in Northern Ireland.

Image caption,
The immediate priority should be pay and conditions for social care workers, Unison has said

"Whilst we await further details on how the forum will operate, we would call for it to immediately focus on improving pay and terms and conditions for workers across social care as its first order of business.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated once again how vital these workers are, but also highlighted how they continue to be exploited, undervalued and underpaid. This forum must act swiftly to change that."

Health Minister Robin Swann said there was "no denying" that many social care services were fragile and needed the workforce to be "built up and supported".

The Department of Health said it is "anticipated" that the forum will include representatives of all those involved in the sector and will develop proposals to improve terms and conditions and career prospects.

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