Council 'publicity stunt' £600 bonus a 'kick in the teeth' for Northamptonshire carers

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There are more than 12,075 staff employed by over 400 independent care and support providers in the county

Carers who were promised a £600 bonus for their incredible efforts throughout the Covid pandemic say they have not yet received any money in their bank accounts despite council promises.

On December 23, 2021, council chiefs announced all staff across Northamptonshire delivering CQC regulated care services would be recognised for their vital work with a cash payment.

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It had been promised that bonus payments would be paid on March 31 to 12,075 hard-working staff, employed by more than 400 independent care and support providers.

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But many have been left disappointed and angry as they are still yet to be receive their bonus weeks later.

A Wellingborough care home worker, who did not wish to be named, said: “We haven’t been paid. It’s really, really disappointing. It was just a sound bite and a publicity stunt.

"It’s a kick in the teeth. No-one I work with has had the money. Luckily I haven’t spent it yet but some people had been relying on the money.”

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Costing £7.245m the majority of the funding – £5,236,093 – comes from the Government Social Care Workforce Retention Fund with the rest coming from the combined West and North Northamptonshire Council’s Covid-19 Contain Outbreak Management Fund (£508,907) and a contribution to each Northamptonshire council (West and North) from Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (£750,000).

Key worker - library photoKey worker - library photo
Key worker - library photo

When the bonus was announced in a press release the leaders of both North and West Northamptonshire Councils made a joint statement praising the work of carers.

Cllr Jason Smithers, leader of North Northamptonshire Council, said at the time: “The care sector does a remarkable job in looking after our most vulnerable but the past two years, with rising demand and the challenges of the pandemic, has shown that they are absolutely invaluable to our communities.

“As such it’s only right that we take these extra measures to ensure that they are properly rewarded for all of their hard work and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work with partners across the county to make this a reality.”

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It is believed that bonus of ‘£600’ will be paid pro-rata with attendance between certain dates being used to calculate the payment.

One Kettering worker, who did not want to be named, was disappointed to learn that despite working throughout the majority of the pandemic she would not qualify for the full amount because she took days off sick.

She said: “I was expecting £600 but then it turned out that I was off sick during the two dates so I will only get a small percentage. It’s absolutely ridiculous, we are key workers.

"We have also found out when we are paid it will go through with our normal pay and be taxed.”

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And the disappointed Wellingborough carer added: “It’s the divisive nature of the payments. The cooks, cleaners and domestics won’t get the bonus but they have worked the whole pandemic. Working through Covid was very difficult and challenging, it was scary. It’s upsetting that colleagues won’t get the payments. I feel let down.”

In the original press release the council leaders had said: “We hope the extra payment will act as an incentive for care workers to keep going and remain in their jobs in CQC regulated settings over the winter, and for new starters to join the caring profession over the coming winter months, up until March 31.”

The announcement promised that ‘the payment will be made on March 31, 2022 to existing staff and to new starters’. To qualify as a new starter, individuals must have been new to CQC-regulated care and support and recruited on or before the end of January 2022.

Cllr Jonathan Nunn, leader of West Northamptonshire Council, had previously said: “We acknowledge, and know only too well, that the care staff workforce is overworked, underpaid, and exhausted at a time when the demand for adult social care in the county has risen so sharply.

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“We hope that by pooling funds together across health and social care and paying a loyalty bonus to care staff this winter, we are showing that all partners appreciate the dedication that they have shown in looking after vulnerable people across Northamptonshire.

In December 2021, chief executive Northamptonshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group Toby Sanders had said: “This one-off bonus scheme is designed to urgently help retain and recruit dedicated care staff through the many challenges of the winter ahead.

"We hope it goes some way in showing the NHS appreciation of the work carers do and will ensure the provision of high quality care to residents and reduce pressure on other parts of our health and social care system.”

A spokesman from West Northamptonshire Council said: “Carers in CQC registered care homes across Northamptonshire were entitled to the £600 bonus payment but only 90 per cent of the providers in West Northamptonshire have signed up to the scheme and ten per cent have elected not to sign up to the scheme."

North Northamptonshire Council has been contacted for comment.