The English Community Care Association has warned increasing numbers of English councils are failing to increase fees to independent care providers in line with inflation.
Over 2008-9, hundreds of providers will struggle to meet additional costs due to a 25p hourly rise in the minimum wage this October and the impact or a four-day increase in statutory holiday entitlements for staff last October, the English Community Care Association said.
Many providers say they are getting no or below-inflation fee increases for residential services for older people, adults with learning disabilities and long-term conditions, according to research by ECCA.
Councils ‘ignoring’ contracts
Some local authorities and primary care trusts have also “ignored” clauses in contracts which would guarantee annual inflationary uplifts to fees, ECCA’s report Nothing for Services, Nothing for Quality, claimed.
ECCA acknowledged that local authority funding had not increased sufficiently but argued that this was “no justification” for failing to increase fees, despite authorities’ efficiency savings targets.
The organisation called on the government to step in to revise fee offers to a minimum meeting the current retail price index measure of inflation, which was 4.2% in April, and to ensure local authorities “did not behave in a similar fashion” next year.
ECCA’s chief executive Martin Green, said: “Many commissioners have used as their excuse a lack of money, but at the same time that they have been giving nil or below inflation rate increases to the people who provide the services, they have found money to pay their own staff salary increases and also to put money into their pension funds”.
The United Kingdom Homecare Association backed ECCA’s call.
Adass hits back
However, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said that while some authorities may be paying low or nil increases for 2008/9, this was “by no means the general position”.
Sarah Pickup, co-chair of the ADASS resources committee, said low increases in some cases “may be entirely justifiable” given authorities’ “challenging” efficiency targets.
She also pointed out that the inflation rate used by government in funding authorities was the consumer price index, which was at 2.75% when councils’ grant settlement was finalised. “Unless the government uses the retail price index in funding local government it would be unreasonable for the government to recommend a revision of fee offers,” Pickup argued.
She added: “Given the wide range of local circumstances it would be extremly difficult for the government to give any commitment that authorities cannot ‘behave in a similar fashion’ next year.”