Home care staff are facing reduced pay and conditions and are being put at risk because of council cuts to providers, a United Kingdom Homecare Association survey has found.
The research, which covers decisions by 111 UK councils and health and social care trusts, found 58% of commissioners had cut the price they paid independent providers, half had removed workers’ unsocial hours premium and a fifth were reducing payments for workers’ travel time between appointments.
There is also evidence of staff being paid by the minute for visits, with one care worker posting on Community Care’s CareSpace forum that they would be penalised as a result where service users decided to cut visits short.
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“Staff are having to work longer hours to make up their salaries,” said UKHCA chair Mike Padgham. “Some have second jobs, which isn’t ideal. If packages are being reduced you have to do something to plug the gap.”
“In some parts of the country it’s becoming particularly difficult to pay much above the national minimum wage – particularly North East and North West England,” said UKHCA policy and campaigns director Colin Angel.
“I’m worried about what will happen to recruitment as the economy picks up and people move back to the sectors they wanted to work in,” he said.
“Workers are now starting to demonstrate that they will no longer work for bargain basement pay and conditions,” said Heather Wakefield, Unison’s head of local government.
The UKHCA survey also identified safety concerns for staff. Two-fifths of councils and trusts have reduced funding for the doubling-up of care workers on visits, despite some providers’ risk assessments stating that two care workers were required, for instance in getting a client into a bath.
Nick Johnson, chief executive of the Social Care Association, said he was struck by the professionalism of care staff given their working conditions, adding: “I’ve met care workers who had a half-hour call but had a half-hour journey both ways, which wasn’t paid for.”
However, he warned that the high level of unemployment was leading to the recruitment of “unmotivated and unsuitable” people, who were not driven by vocation.
Bridget Warr, chief executive of UKHCA speaks out over home care cuts
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