To all Hestia staff and volunteers, widespread

Today I have written to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to raise my concerns about the widespread failure to value and reward your work appropriately and more so now in the face of the cost of living crisis. I have shared a full copy of the letter below. I want him to know that more must be done to ensure that you – the skilled, compassionate, and committed people who do challenging, complex and life-saving work every day – are truly valued and rewarded.

I know that as we face the cost-of-living crisis, the challenge is increasing. The needs of our service users are becoming even more complex and there is no increase in funding to help us meet that. In fact, in recent months we are increasingly having to face the tough decision to hand back contracts to local authorities where it is not possible any more to pay a living wage and deliver a good quality service.

I spoke during the pandemic of the awe inspiring commitment of all of you who work and volunteer at Hestia. It is as true today as it was then. But while we are good at taking care of others, we must maintain our own wellbeing. So please talk to your managers and use the support that is available on our newly created Cost of Living site (internal use only) and our Hestia wellbeing and rewards pages.

I am pleased also today to be able to announce that we have entered into a formal agreement for exclusive collective bargaining rights with UNISON, the trade union. We believe that having a union voice alongside our employee forum (Hestia Voice) will strengthen employee engagement, and in turn the services we offer to the people we support.

We are here together again facing tough times, but I know together – and with our service users – we will have the courage to face this. Thank you for everything you do.

Patrick Ryan

Letter to Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP

Dear Mr Barclay

I am writing to you at this critical time to urge you to ensure that social care workers sit at the heart of your strategy for health and social care in the UK.

By way of introduction, Hestia is one of the largest providers of domestic abuse services in London and the South and the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in the capital. We also run extensive programmes to support individuals facing challenges with their mental health including registered care homes, recovery cafes and community-based support. Last year we supported more than 15,000 people.

For more than 50 years our staff have been at the forefront of supporting the most vulnerable people in our society. Never was this more so than in the last few years where, throughout the pandemic, they continued to go out every day – keeping domestic abuse refuges open even to families arriving with Covid symptoms; offering doorstep visit to protect the most vulnerable; innovating new mental health services to meet rising demand. They, just like all the social care staff working tirelessly across the UK, have been phenomenal. They have continued to do this despite little thanks or recognition from the public. They have continued despite their pay being far below what it should be to represent the complex work they do every day.

Yet there is no respite for them. As we face the cost of living crisis, the challenges faced by our service users are becoming even more complex. Our staff are having to do even more with less and less. Funding for the vital work they do doesn’t value them. It isn’t increasing to ensure their wages can rise with inflation – instead contracts are very often index linked. In fact, in recent months we are increasingly having to face the tough decision to hand back contracts to local authorities where it is not possible any more to pay a living wage and deliver a good quality service.

So I urge you, both in the immediate future and as part of the wider reforms around social care, to ensure these skilled, compassionate and committed people are really valued for the challenging, complex and life saving work that they do. It must be a government priority.

We would be very pleased to host a visit for you or your colleagues to meet our staff and understand more of the work they do.

Your sincerely

Patrick Ryan

CC. Helen Whately MP, Minister for Social Care
Maria Caulfield MP, Minister for Mental Health