THOUSANDS of low-paid care workers who were in line for a significant pay rise under a Barnsley Council scheme to retain staff within the sector have been ‘blocked’ from doing so by a group claiming to represent the majority of care homes in the town.

Earlier this year the council agreed to implement its ‘Excellence In Care’ initiative that would have seen workers’ pay increase to £9.72 an hour – £1 above the national living wage – and was due to come into effect on April 1.

However, the Barnsley Independent Care Homes Association – a group which controls 36 or the 49 facilities in the town – has told the council it does not intend to accept the proposal.

Trade union Unison has blasted the move and told the Chronicle its members deserved the rise.

Spokesperson Robin Symonds said: “While it seems the association are happy to accept the council’s cash, they do not want to pass it on to care workers.

“It is extremely disappointing as the council recognised the need to fairly reward those carers, the same ones we were all applauding throughout the lockdown period just a matter of months ago.

“We believe that anyone whose relatives are cared for in a residential home will share our disappointment that their carers being denied fair pay, particularly when the council has made the money available.”

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It was envisaged the pay rise – agreed by the council as part of this year’s budget – would help retain staff initially before the training programme kicked in to encourage more to begin a career in the industry.

Ben Harvey-Wade, branch secretary of Barnsley Unison, added: “The council’s Excellence In Care programme is really exciting and should be welcomed by everyone who lives in Barnsley.

“Under the proposals, which will establish a career pathway for care workers, there will be a market supplement, which will increase basic rates of pay for the lowest paid care workers.

“Approximately 3,000 care workers across Barnsley were in line for the rise, receiving an 18.4 per cent pay increase, taking their hourly rate to £9.72.

“For a full-time worker this amounts to a pay rise of about £3,000 per year. As the trade union that represents care workers, Unison has been urging the council to do this for a considerable time and we welcome this initiative.

“The increased rate of pay will obviously be of direct benefit to care workers but it will also benefit everybody who relies on, or has relatives who rely on social care.

“The care companies that provide services on behalf of Barnsley Council struggle to recruit and retain staff because the care system is under-funded by central government.

“This is part of a national care crisis and against this backdrop of under-funding the council should be commended for investing money into such a vital service.”

The Chronicle understands eight care homes across the borough have already implemented the wage structure and programme, but negotiations are ongoing to resolve the impasse with the others.

Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said: “It is an excellent programme and one which recognises the efforts of all care staff across Barnsley.

“Workers in the care sector work hard for low pay, providing a vital service, so it’s important they get a better deal. The pay rise and programme will hopefully encourage them to stay in the industry.

“Some have already adopted the scheme and we’re hopeful others will follow suit.”

No-one from the Barnsley Independent Care Homes Association was available when contacted by the Chronicle.