The United Kingdom Homecare Association has found escalating fuel costs may force two-thirds of home care providers to turn down new work from councils or users in the next three months.
In a poll of 287 providers, 78% said the sharp increase in fuel prices over the last 10 months was having a significant impact on their ability to retain staff.
The association said forecourt prices could cause an “exodus” from the home care sector, which already had the highest turnover rate, 24.9%, in social care. Between 1% and 1.7% of staff left in the last three months with fuel prices cited as the main or a significant reason for their departure, the survey found.
Many workers rely on private vehicles to travel between clients’ homes, and with the average litre of petrol now almost £1.15, providers are under further pressure to pay the costs through mileage allowances.
In June the UKHCA launched a campaign for greater tax relief on these allowances. The current maximum relief is 40p a mile.
Mike Padgham, chair of the UKHCA, said the cost of fuel was yet another inflationary pressure in the face of “persistent under-funding” by local authorities.
He accused councils of neglecting “the need to maintain capacity within the sector” by paying below-inflation fee increases for care packages. In the UK, 65% of state-funded services are outsourced to independent providers.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said increases in the cost of oil, petrol and diesel, which councils use to deliver many of their services, had cost them £239m in the last two years.
He said the worst government settlement for councils in a decade, for 2008-11, meant “councils could be forced into making unpalatable choices between cutting frontline services and laying off staff”.
Sarah Pickup, joint chair of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services resources network, said the inflationary uplift in councils’ fees to providers in 2009-10 should reflect increased fuel prices.
• Join the debate on fuel costs at www.communitycare.co.uk/care-space-fuelhike