The Department for Communities and Local Government’s chief civil servant has said that local authorities should consider dumping home care providers who pay less than the minimum wage.
Bob Kerslake, the department’s permanent secretary, spoke out against low paying providers while being questioned by MPs at a evidence session held last week by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee as part of its inquiry into adult social care.
In the meeting, committee chair Margaret Hodge described figures suggesting that as many as 220,000 domiciliary care workers earn less than the minimum wage as “shocking”.
In response Kerslake said it was “unacceptable” for providers to pay less than the minimum wage.
“It is against the law,” he said. “If local authorities find that this is the case, they should challenge them and ask whether they should still be providers for them. They should certainly be referred to HMRC. This is absolutely clear-cut.”
Hodge replied that it depended on whether the time spent travelling between clients counted as working hours.
“I know somebody who does this work,” she said. “This person works in London and they get paid only for the quarter of an hour that they are with the elderly.
“It takes half an hour to get from client A to client B, for which they do not get paid. It seems to me that that is outrageous. They are on minimum wage. It is outrageous.”
Kerslake said the government agreed with her, adding that this issue “should be tackled”.
Earlier in the session, Age UK director Caroline Abrahams told the committee that the “living standards of people who provide front-line care are pretty poor”.
“Often they are employed by private sector organisations, and they are not always paid for their transport costs, so they are essentially subsidising that,” she said.
“In a sense the front-line staff who provide care are just as much victims of the underfunding as everybody else. I am surprised that the practice is as good as it is under the really difficult circumstances that people are working in.”