Councils slash home care jobs under impact of personalisation

Councils slashed in-house home care jobs by 9% last year on the back of the increase in personal budgets and the long-term trend to commission services from the independent sector, research shows.

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Councils slashed in-house home care jobs by 9% last year on the back of the increase in personal budgets and the long-term trend to commission services from the independent sector, research shows.

The number of staff employed in home care by councils fell from 25,000 to 22,800 in 2009-10, found market analyst Laing and Buisson’s Domiciliary Care UK Market Report 2011, published today. Most of the jobs were lost through recruitment freezes when staff left or retired.

In-house teams’ share of home care services purchased by councils in England fell from 19% in 2008-9 to 16% in 2009-10 as the share of the independent sector continued to increase.

However, the number of recorded home care hours purchased overall by councils fell for the first time in 15 years between 2008-10 and 2009-10, partly due to changes in recording practices but mainly because of the increased use of personal budgets, enabling users to purchase their own care.

In-house services are, on average, double the cost of those provided by the independent sector, said the report, which added that there was “little doubt that the volume and share of home care delivered by in-house units will continue to decrease, at least for the next few years”.

In some councils, in-house teams may disappear altogether, it said, while the report pointed to the increased concentration of in-house teams in providing reablement services as opposed to ongoing support.

The report also identified changes in council commissioning practices under the influence of personalisation. Instead of buying care through block contracts, councils are increasingly spot-purchasing services from providers with which authorities have a “framework agreement”. Under these arrangements, providers are accredited by local authorities but are not guaranteed any hours of care.

This has helped smaller providers which cannot afford to bid for local authority contracts, the report said.

Responding to the report, Unison’s head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “Councils, hit with huge cuts, are passing on the responsibility for care to service users, through direct payments, rather than taking responsibility for care work themselves.

“The report reveals a worrying downwards pressure on home care costs – but prices are already low. Driving them down further means that home care workers are increasingly being employed on bargain basement pay and conditions in the private and voluntary sectors – this means national minimum wage rates, minimum holidays and sick pay and no training. This has obvious impacts on quality.”

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