Connected Health has become Northern Ireland’s first Living Wage-accredited care provider.

The fastest growing advanced homecare company in the UK and Ireland, announced the move following the launch of a recruitment campaign to fill 150 new job roles across its NI operations.

The Living Wage accreditation will see all Connected Health carers receive a minimum hourly wage of £9.30 regardless of their age – significantly more than the government minimum wage for over 25s, which currently stands at £8.72 per hour.

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of non-living wage jobs in all UK regions (23%), with more than 202,000 jobs paying less than the real Living Wage. New research published this week by the Living Wage Foundation found 170,000 workers in Northern Ireland were paid below the Living Wage and in insecure work.

The announcement by Connected Health is a significant milestone for care workers in NI and coincides with a new Citizens UK campaign calling for all key workers – including those working in the care sector – to receive a ‘real living wage’.

Katherine Chapman, Director, Living Wage Foundation, said Connected Health is leading the way in taking care of care workers in Northern Ireland, where social care is a notoriously underpaid sector.

Ms Chapman said: “We’re delighted that Connected Health has joined the movement of over 6,400 responsible employers across the UK who voluntarily commit to go further than the government minimum to make sure all their staff earn enough to live on.

“Low pay is widespread in the social care sector, so it is even more impressive and welcome to see Connected Health commit to provide their workers with fair pay during these challenging times. The living wage makes a huge difference to the lives of workers and their families, and if the last few months have proven anything it is that care is an extraordinarily vital sector and that care workers deserve a real living wage.”

Dougie Adams CEO, Connected Health, said: “We are committed to paying the real living wage and to the provision of excellent training and career advancement to all our people.

He added: “As one of the fastest growing homecare employers on this island, it is important that we do the right thing by our hard-working teams.

“Supporting our people, who deliver more than 1.6 million home visits per year, with a real living wage is the right move for our company as it fits perfectly with our culture of fairness and dedication to rewarding employees for tremendous effort.

“We at Connected Health are very proud to play our part in the great work of the Living Wage movement by standing by our people so they can more comfortably meet their everyday living costs.

“Not only will the wage benefit our employees but also the communities in which they live and work in all five health trust areas,” he added.

“Now, more than ever, we are witnessing the bravery, commitment and loyalty of our carers – they have been heroes in their communities throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The relatively low transmission and mortality rates in homecare is a direct result of our highly trained, well-protected and caring workforces.”

Rebecca Cassidy, a carer from Finaghy, will be paid an additional £1,100 per year by Connected Health as a result of her employer’s Living Wage commitment.

“It’s a significant sum and is really going to help. I’m currently saving money for a deposit to buy a house, so a pay increase is very welcome. More care providers should follow the lead of Connected Health because it really shows how much all the staff are valued and that is important.”