Our biggest challenge to date?

15 Dec 2015

Some people say that life is like a roller coaster. There’s a track in front of us and sometimes the track turns in ways you wouldn’t expect. You are presented with highs and lows all within a short space of time.

The past year, our 25th anniversary year has presented me, and all of us at Jewish Care, with a roller coaster of emotions. Whilst I have experienced some great highs during the year I have also seen the track turn in ways we wouldn’t have expected.

It wouldn’t surprise those who know me to know I don’t like roller coasters. My dislike for roller coasters probably stems from a lack of control. Its natural human instinct to want control, with this comes a degree of certainty coupled with the freedom to make choices and plot our own destiny.

The Chancellor’s announcement in the summer to introduce a National Living Wage, a new extension to the current National Minimum Wage was a twist and track change few saw coming. I expect it will take us through some uncomfortable rides over the coming years.

The principle of this track change is absolutely right. I fully support increasing low pay. We are an organisation who values its staff. We have embarked, over the past few years, in an exercise to increase the pay of our lowest paid workers but we have been mindful of the need to do this in a sustainable ‘controlled’ way. Last year the lowest paid 17% of staff were given a 9% pay increase. Our front line staff are the backbone of our organisation. We all owe so much to them for the fantastic work they to care and support older and vulnerable people across our community. We had planned to recognise this by continuing to close the gap between the lowest paid staff and the managers.

Whilst the likes of Costa coffee have announced an increase in prices of their coffee when the National Living Wage takes effect in April paying for this increase isn’t quite as simple for an organisation like Jewish Care.

Local authorities are responsible for paying fees for our clients who can’t afford to pay for their services. However, the fees paid by the local authority continue to reduce compared to the real cost of providing these services. We fill this gap thanks to the generosity of the community. The support we receive from the community enables us to continue to provide a wide range of quality services to the whole community irrespective of people’s ability to pay.

The government’s announcement will see an increase in the National Minimum Wage increasing by £2.50 an hour by 2020. That’s a 38% increase. The majority of our staff are front line care workers, catering staff and cleaners. Over 50% of our staff currently earn less than the proposed National Living Wage. We estimate the cost to us will be several million pounds each year by 2020.

Whilst the likes of Costa coffee have announced an increase in prices paying for this increase isn’t quite as simple for Jewish Care.

Over the coming year we will be looking closely across the business to understand how we can meet this additional cost. We will be talking to our clients, supporters, volunteers, staff and the government to discuss our options. Unlike Costa Coffee the answer for how we will meet this new challenge isn’t simple.

It’s not the first time, nor dare I say it the last, that the tracks have turned in unexpected ways. Yet working together, being open and honest about the challenges ahead we have managed the roller coasters of the past and I have every confidence we will manage this latest track change.

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