Posted: Sat 24th Feb 2024

Welsh Government faces criticism for failing to deliver real living wage promise

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales

The Welsh Government has been accused of rowing back on a promise to pay the real living wage to homelessness and housing support workers.

Mabon ap Gwynfor said 41% of support workers are paid below the new April 2024 minimum wage of £11.44 an hour and 67% less than the 2023-24 real living wage of £12.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow housing minister warned that 56% of frontline workers are struggling to pay their bills, with 12% feeling at greater risk of homelessness themselves.

He criticised a real-terms cut to the housing support grant in the Welsh Government’s 2024-25 draft budget, warning support for workers is woefully inadequate.

Mr Gwynfor claimed Mark Drakeford’s 2018 leadership manifesto promised to pay homelessness and housing support workers a fair wage.

‘Struggle’

Julie James, who is responsible for housing, said she is exploring whether further funding can be found in the final budget which will be published on February 27.

Wales’ climate change minister said: “I cannot promise that at the moment, but we are looking very hard to see if we can find that.”

She recognised that a flat £166m settlement for the housing support grant is causing problems but she said it was a struggle to maintain funding at that level.

During climate change questions on February 21, Ms James added: “I would very much like to see them paid the real living wage. We would very much like to have that happen….

“They’re extraordinary people. They certainly do deserve to be paid the real living wage and be remunerated properly.”

‘Intolerable’

Katie Dalton, Cymorth Cymru’s director, and Stuart Ropke, Community Housing Cymru’s chief executive, wrote to the first minister warning workers are being pushed into poverty.

Calling for at least a 10% increase in funding, which would equate to £16.7m, they warned that roles could otherwise be made redundant and contracts handed back to councils.

They wrote: “It is unacceptable that workers who do such complex and skilled jobs are paid so little, and it is intolerable that the very people who are tasked with preventing homelessness are being pushed closer to homelessness and poverty themselves.”

Ms Dalton and Mr Ropke said the workforce delivered vital, life-saving services during the pandemic and continue to play a role in addressing today’s housing crisis.

The pair argued fair work and the real living wage were at the heart of Prof Drakeford’s 2018 leadership pitch, Labour’s 2021 manifesto and the programme for government.

‘Selective quotation’

Mark Drakeford did not recognise the commitment when quizzed by Rhun ap Irowerth during first minister’s questions on Tuesday February 20.

The first minister accused Plaid Cymru’s leader of “selectively quoting” from manifestos.

Prof Drakeford said: “I’ve looked at Labour’s manifesto; it makes no reference at all to paying the real living wage in the context that he just described.

“What it does make a commitment to is paying the real living wage to social care workers here in Wales.

“That was the single most expensive commitment in our manifesto and money has been mobilised year after year to deliver it.”

By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter

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