My name is “Sarah”. I’m a band 3 community support worker. I love my job. But I can barely afford to come to work, and fear I may have to give up my job supporting service users in a predominantly rural area. I can’t see how anyone could afford to do the job that NSFT want me to do on the salary it is offering. I certainly can’t. The Government says that costs need to be cut but we’ve already had our pay slashed. I don’t understand, given the sacrifices low-paid front-line staff like us have been forced to make, why there isn’t enough money to fund services.
In the “cost improvement process” many community support work jobs were down-banded from band 4 to band 3. I, and many others, were forced to take a pay cut of £125 each month. My salary dropped to between £16,000 and £18,000 per year. I also recently had to apply for my own job again as part of the ‘radical redesign’, for the second time in 18 months.
This has happened at a time when our essential car user allowance was stopped, which was another cut of about £177 per month after tax. That is a lot of money when you’re on a low wage. This was an extra amount of money we got in our wages each month to contribute towards the cost of using our own car for work. I was using this money to cover the cost of the loan that I took out to buy a second hand car so I could take this job.
Since I took this job the cost of car insurance and petrol has gone up so much. I cover a really big rural area, driving out to support vulnerable people who rely on me. Once we have done 3,500 miles our mileage rate drops to 24p per mile. I reached that mileage part way through the year. At the end of each month I don’t have enough money in my bank account to put petrol in my car to go out and do my visits, so each month I have to go into my overdraft, which costs me money so my debts gets bigger. I’m dreading the moment when my car insurance renewal comes through, as I’m not sure I will be able to afford it. I have budgeted for the MOT, but if any repairs are needed or new tyres I just won’t manage.
There is rarely a pool car available to use, as many of my colleagues are using them as they can’t afford to use their cars either. Community-based staff without transport is hardly good for productivity! Even if I can use a pool car some of the time when I can’t afford petrol, my car still needs tax, insurance and an MOT for the whole year. The rent I pay on my house is almost 40% of my wages. I don’t think senior NSFT managers realise how much some of us struggle to make ends meet each month. The people who rely on me often live in really isolated areas. If I didn’t go out and see them they would find it really hard to access support. So many places have poor or non-existent public transport. Morale is really low. All I want is to be able to do a job I love to a high standard.