Angela paid tribute to the country’s key worker heroes and issued a rallying call for care workers to get a payrise during her speech at The Labour Party’s annual conference.
Speaking at Labour Connected – held digitally this year due to the pandemic – she said: “This crisis has shown who we cannot survive without. The NHS and social care staff who have put their lives on the line. The posties, bus drivers, shop workers, delivery drivers and so many others who have kept us all safe, fed and connected.
“I want to pay tribute to all of you. Your service and your sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“You have rightly been praised as heroes this year. But the truth is that you have always been heroes. You’ve always been the backbone of our country and of our communities.”
Angela said the Government must tackle low pay in the care industry as she challenged Boris Johnson to follow his warm words with meaningful change and ensure that the UK’s million-plus care workers to be paid at least the real living wage as care homes brace for a second wave of Covid-19.
Half of the UK’s care staff earn below the real living wage, seen as the minimum sum needed for people to live. This is currently £9.30 an hour (outside London where it is £10.75 an hour).
Angela said: “I am proud that before I became a member of Parliament I was a home care worker, working back-breaking shifts on poverty pay and a zero-hours contact. I’m proud of the work that I did caring for those who needed it. It made me who I am today and it means that when I stand up in Parliament I know who I’m standing up for. I know whose side I’m on.”
“Care workers are left in an appalling position. Forced to choose between going to work and putting vulnerable people at risk, or isolating at home and not being able to pay the bills.
“Ministers have fallen over themselves to clap for our carers but applause on a Thursday night doesn’t pay the rent. A pat on the back doesn’t put food on the table.
“The average wage for a social care worker is £8.10 an hour. This was a moral outrage even before this pandemic. But now, it is indefensible.
“After all their sacrifice and hardship, we can’t go back to business as usual, where the very same people who have risen to this challenge continue to be underpaid, undervalued and exploited.”
Angela also encouraged the key workers that have led the country through the pandemic to join the fight to rebuild communities by standing to be elected as councillors.
She said: “We are supporting key workers who want to run for office in May 2021 and beyond. You kept our country running. Now we want you to lead the recovery in every town hall and in every community.
“Margaret Thatcher was wrong – there is such a thing as society. A society in which people come together to support each other and have each other’s backs. A society in which we have all seen the power of community during this crisis.
“These are our values. And they must be the foundation of our country’s recovery. Out of this crisis, we can build a better, fairer, more equal society.”
“We can’t let ordinary working people pay the price for this crisis.”