A care home worker in Northampton has started a petition protesting the council's decision to exclude non-carers from getting a £600 bonus next month.Care home activities co-ordinator, Sam Rix, from Finedon, was hailed a 'Northants Lockdown Legend' by nominations that came pouring in from members of the public, who described her as a "lifeline" for keeping them connected to vulnerable residents.
Sam now feels "cast aside" by both West and North Northamptonshire Councils, who announced in December that care workers would be given a £600 'thank you' bonus for 'powering through the pandemic' but then recently announced that this would not include "support staff" as that was "not possible."
This means that those working as housekeepers, cleaners, caterers, administrators, activities coordinators and other non-caring roles will not be eligible for the bonus.
Sam said: "It is not so much about the money anymore, it is the fact that we have worked just as hard for just as long and it seems as if we have been forgotten about and cast aside.
"When you look at a care home, it is not just carers. If you are just going to recognise some of the workers and not all then just don't do it at all."
West Northamptonshire Council told this newspaper that, while they would like to financially reward employees in all sectors who worked tirelessly during the pandemic, it is 'simply not possible,' so they aimed the bonus at carers, which have 'the biggest challenges in recruitment and retention of staffing.'
This decision has divided staff at Sam's Northampton-based care home.
She said: "It has caused a bit of upset here. Some people are feeling guilty that some of us will be getting it and some of us won't be.
"It's just not fair the way that they have done it.
"How can the council say that carers have been hardest hit? Everybody here has put their life on hold. When pubs opened back up, we made the decision to keep isolating and keep protecting our residents. We sacrificed so much, so for the council to say that is a load of rubbish."
Sam has created a petition calling on both unitary authorities to provide an equal bonus for all care home staff in Northamptonshire. As of today (February 24), it has garnered 80 signatures.
Sam argues that a better approach would have been for both councils to give a certain amount of money to each CQC regulated care home - depending on the number of staff they employ - for them to redistribute amongst their employees. Sam said that, this way, "everyone will be recognised for their hard work."
She added: "I have laughed and cried with people and have been there when no one else has been here. I just think we could go out and treat ourselves to something - we are not even worth a bunch of flowers, it's sickening.
"We got a little tiny badge that has 'care' on it. That's all the recognition we have had and I'm sorry but I have been in the scouts since I was 14 and that just means nothing, if I'm honest.
"The council is always on about equal opportunities and everyone is supposed to be treated equally but we aren't. When the boot is on the other foot, it doesn't matter."
There are 12,075 carers employed by more than 400 independent care and support providers across the county, according to West Northamptonshire Council.
It will cost approximately £7.2 million to provide each carer with the £600 bonus.
This will be funded by the combined West and North Northamptonshire Council's Covid-19 Contain Outbreak Management Fund of £508,907, the government Social Care Workforce Retention Fund of £5,236,093 and a contribution of £750,000 from the Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
West Northamptonshire Council provided a statement to this newspaper last week about the carers' bonus and have since declined to comment any further, following the launch of the petition.
A council spokesman previously said: “While the Authority would ideally like to be able to financially reward employees in all sectors who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic, it is simply not possible to do so and as a result, we have aimed our scheme at the area where there are the biggest challenges in recruitment and retention of staffing, which is those staff that are delivering CQC Regulated Front Line care.”
March 31, 2022 will see the bonus paid to existing staff and new starters.
To qualify as a new starter, individuals must be new to CQC regulated care and support and recruited on or before the end of January 2022.