One year on: our inquiry into the experiences of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care

by Angharad Davies

Published: 09 Jun 2023

A year ago, we published our inquiry into the treatment of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care organisations. We found many issues. They included evidence of widespread bullying and harassment, and the challenge of the increasing number of vacancies across both sectors. Governments and health and social care organisations across England, Scotland and Wales must act to eliminate the racial inequality that we identified in our report. 

Over the past year, we have seen health and social care organisations across all three nations engage with our recommendations. They have worked to improve the experience and treatment of lower-paid ethnic minority workers. 

For the first time, NHS Providers included two questions on workers not directly employed by trusts in their annual NHS trust pay survey. This will help ensure that there is a better understanding of the outsourced workforce in England. Our inquiry findings also helped inform their submission to NHS Pay Review 2023/24, which includes a section on outsourced and lower-paid workers.  

Elsewhere, the Care Quality Commission in England has followed through with its commitment to alter its assessment frameworks in response to our recommendations. Their new Single Assessment Framework for health and social care providers now covers an assessment of worker welfare issues. It also details the progress made in addressing poor outcomes for ethnic minority workers identified in providers’ data. 

The Welsh Government has committed to undertake a review of the effectiveness of regulations to ensure that residential and domiciliary care workers are given the option of more secure contracts after three months with an employer. 

Social Care Wales also recently sent out their first all-workforce survey. It includes specific questions on the treatment and experience of the workforce in line with our recommendations. This will improve understanding of the workforce and their experiences. The Welsh Government is also currently developing a Workforce Race Equality Standard for the health and social care sectors in Wales.   

More broadly, the Social Care Fair Work Forum has designated an action from our recommendations as a priority in its 2023-24 workplan. Care Inspectorate Scotland has also committed to take into account our recommendations in embedding equalities legislation across all areas of their scrutiny, assurance and quality improvement work. 

While we celebrate the action taken by organisations so far, there is much more to be done. Governments and health and social care organisations need to actively consider and address the impact of decisions, policies and practices on lower-paid ethnic minority workers. This will not only help to make the health and social care sectors safer and more attractive places to work, but also reduce discrimination against these groups, and enable them to seek redress when things go wrong.