Camden school support staff member speaks out over pay offer

A-level students sit an A-level maths exam inside a sports hall

- Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

A Camden home-schooling officer and family support worker has spoken out about the challenge of living on the low proposed pay rise for council workers.

Council staff rejected the proposed 1.5% pay rise offer put forward by the Local Government Association (LGA) on behalf of National Employers earlier this year as it fell well short of the 10% pay rise claim submitted by unions representing local authority workers.

The pay rise offer was then revised to 1.75% in July, but unions are urging employers to reconsider this offer again because they see the extra 0.25% as “insignificant”.

Camden primary school support staff member Maxine, 51, said: “This 0.25% revision equates to approximately 20p extra an hour for me. Most support staff, including me, are on universal credit because we don’t earn enough to live on. 

“I love my job and I’ve been doing it for 20 years, including helping special needs students and refugees – I have training in lots of areas, but none of this adds to my pay.”

Pay for local government workers has dropped in real terms by over 20% in recent years, according to Unison. 

Maxine said: “This proposed 1.75% ‘rise’ will be swallowed up by rises in national insurance and the cost of living. My monthly gas bills have gone up £30 and I am facing a monthly £80 universal credit cut. 

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“I basically cannot afford anything nice, I can only buy food and that has to be of a poor quality as well.”

Though Maxine is struggling to find an alternative solution, she is uncomfortable at the thought of strike action as she knows how seriously it can impact families who need her help. 

She said: “What worries me personally is strike action affects those we look after and their families – they’ve been through enough.

"The clapping and key worker tag we got throughout Covid now seems unimportant. We are government employees yet we cannot afford to live on our wages. That seems such a strange concept yet it’s acceptable? We seem to have lost our common sense.”

Asked for comment, the LGA pointed to its most recent website statement on the issue from 27 July 2021, which says: “The National Employers hope that the unions accept this final offer so that employees, who are providing such critical support to their communities during the pandemic, can receive a pay rise as soon as practicable.”