MORE than a third of Bolton's care workers are on zero hours contracts, it has been confirmed.

And six posts for home care workers were advertised between last October and April paying less than the living wage of £9.50 per hour,

Around 39 per cent of the borough's carers, many on the frontline during the pandemic, were employed on zero hours contracts

Campaigner say low pay has left them struggling to feed and clothe their families and brought on physical and metal health difficulties and caused many to consider leaving their jobs.

Unison vice president and Bolton branch secretary Andrea Egan said: "This is the problem, why would you take a care job now with all the heavy emotional demands and all the stresses when you could be earning more working in a supermarket?"

She added: "These are people's lives and I don't think you can put a price on that."

The figures, from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, show that elsewhere in Greater Manchester 33 per cent of carers in Bury were on zero-hour contracts, with 34 per cent in the city of Manchester and 39 per cent in Rochdale.

Meanwhile 60 per cent of carer jobs advertised across the UK over the same period were paid less than £9.50, or the London equivalent of £10.85, amounting to over 7,000 jobs.

The data also showed the sector’s turnover rate in Bolton was nearly 27 per cent, meaning the sector struggles to retain staff who have found it too difficult to continue working long hours for what are often low wages.

As a result many elderly and vulnerable care users have to rely on a constantly changing rota of people.

In response, Ms Egan and her Unison colleagues have called upon Bolton Council to adopt their ethical care charter, which they say will protect pay and conditions.

She said: "It will lift them out of poverty, give them a decent wage and allow them to have that bit of security."

But leaders at Bolton Council say they are already supporting carers.

Cllr Andy Morgan, adult services cabinet member, said: “Care workers in Bolton have done an incredible job throughout the pandemic and this council is committed to supporting carers.

“While the majority of carers are not directly employed by Bolton Council, we have taken steps to protect pay and conditions.

“This is alongside work to ensure carers can access priority vaccination, Covid testing and PPE.

“Our quality assurance teams visit care providers regularly to promote best practice and ensure care staff have access to the support they need.

“Money from the Infection Control Fund is also being used to support frontline care workers.”