Carers spoke of their struggle with the cost-of-living crisis today as they demanded a Real Living Wage.
Dozens of campaigners rallied on Parliament Square calling for a pay hike.
Selam Simon, 34, of North London, who has been a carer for six years, is paid £10 an hour.
She said: “I can’t get essentials, I struggle to pay rent, which is £900 a month for one room in shared accommodation.
“It’s so expensive, that’s why we need a Real Living Wage.”
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Selam is on a zero-hours contract and usually works between 20 and 30 hours a week.
“I never know how many hours I’m going to get,” she said.
“I only get my rota on a Friday for the next week – it doesn’t give me much time to plan and sometimes they cancel at short notice.
“I get very down and stressed.”
The voluntary rate paid by organisations accredited with the Living Wage Foundation is £9.90 an hour, rising to £11.05 in London.
In contrast, the legal minimum rate for over-25s across the UK from tomorrow(FRI) will be £9.50 through the National Living Wage.
Mum-of-three Carol Thompson, 54, of Colne, Lancs, who has been a carer for 15 years, said: “I am a lone worker supporting three adults with learning disabilities on a 24-hour shift in supported living, and I’m paid the minimum wage.
“I’m doing all their medication – I order it, administer it, I do stock checks, I run their house, health and safety checks, fire checks as well as personal care – cooking, cleaning, ironing – and escort them to activities.
“The job is endless.
“The cost of living is going up, we have staff who have had to deal with Covid.
“I’m fighting this because I am so fed-up with staff not getting the recognition they deserve.
“We have worked through the pandemic, we were promised as key workers we would get recognition – and we aren’t.
“We have got staff leaving because of the poor pay, we’ve got staff relying on foodbanks – it’s ludicrous.
“You get better pay in a supermarket.”
Fredelyne Evbuomwan, 54, of Nottingham, has been domiciliary carer for three years, visiting recently-discharged hospital patients.
Fredelyne, who is paid the minimum wage, said: “The bills are unbelievable, the cost of living – everything is on the rise.”
He works up to 70 hours a week to support his wife and two boys aged 11 and 18, as well as pay a £465 monthly mortgage.
“It’s really killing me, I’m always on my feet” he said.
“I have to work these hours to keep up with the bills – I have to do seven days a week sometimes.
“Of course it causes me stress, the challenge is so much.
“But I also do it for the joy, to see the smile on people’s faces. I see it as a calling, this is my duty – to serve these people.
“A Real Living Wage would mean a lot to me, it would bring joy not only to me but also my family because I would see my family more because I wouldn’t have to work such long hours.”
Chidi Nnodim, 34, has been a carer in Cardiff for eight months after moving from Nigeria.
He receives £8.90 an hour, juggling 20 hours a week as a carer while he studies data science at college.
“What I earn isn’t enough to cover the cost of living and my expenses,” said Chidi, who has a two-year-old daughter.
“I pay £525 a month rent and I am also taking care of my family.
“I feel tired most of the time.
“I am caring for people so I need to put all the attention and passion into it. But the struggle is overtaking, I have to put in my all.”
Today’s demonstration was organised by grassroots campaign organisation Citizens UK.
Members from its Wales, Leicestershire, Nottingham, Greater Manchester, East London and Tyne and Wear branches waved flags as they protested.
Citizens’ chief executive Matthew Bolton urged the Government to provide ring-fenced cash so all carers receive at least the Real Living Wage.
He said: “There’s the risk right now that with the cost-of-living crisis – bills going through the roof – we get a staffing crisis in social care.
“Care workers have shown through the pandemic how absolutely essential their work is – they need to be paid accordingly.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “We appreciate the dedication and tireless work of health and social care staff throughout the pandemic.
“We are investing at least £500million to support and develop the care workforce over the next three years as part of our £5.4billion to reform social care.
“We are ensuring that the social care system is funded so that providers can pay the National Minimum and National Living Wages to social care workers.
“Since the introduction of the National Living Wage in 2016, care worker pay has increased at a faster rate than before.”