Two-thirds of people back higher income tax to fund a pay rise for carers, according to new research.
The Savanta ComRes survey for The Fawcett Society found that more than seven in ten people think care workers are underpaid with three in four saying they should be paid the Real Living Wage.
Almost half of those polled (48%) said the government had not done enough to support care homes at the start of the pandemic with only 26% saying social care had been prioritised. A large majority (72%) said care workers were underpaid for the work they do.
Three quarters (76%) said carers should get paid at least the Living Wage, rising to nine out of ten Conservative-voting women (88%). Eight out of ten (79%) agreed that carers should be entitled to decent terms and conditions.
Many low-paid care workers are among the 1.2 million women who are not eligible for Statutory Sick Pay due to their earnings. The poll showed the public overwhelmingly backed every worker being able to access sick pay during the pandemic, with 77% agreeing.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said: “This crisis has revealed how much we rely on frontline workers, particularly low paid care workers, yet how poorly they are treated. The truth is government did not prioritise the care sector at the start and the public are clear on that. This must change. As a minimum it is time to properly protect them, give them decent terms and conditions and start paying them a living wage.
“Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act it is time to go to the heart of why women are still undervalued, and that is because we do not value care work, whether it is paid or unpaid. The Chancellor could give care workers a pay rise tomorrow if he chose to and our poll shows that the wider public, including the vast majority of Conservative voters, would support it.”
Nell Andrew, GMB National Equality and Inclusion Officer, added: “The research paints a clear picture on how the public view the dire lack of action from the government to protect care homes and our heroic care workers.
“It’s a disgrace that hardworking care staff have to survive on poverty wages or without sick pay. No-one should be forced to make the decision between feeding their children or possibly putting others at risk.
“We need real action and proper investment in the sector. Social care workers must be paid a real living wage, with full sick pay from day one and vitally the PPE and time to be able to do their job safely. We cannot wait another 50 years for equality and fair pay.”