Extra funding for social care is needed to help the sector meet a proposed 3% increase in the minimum wage, the Low Pay Commission has recommended.
The commission has recommended increasing the minimum wage by 19p to £6.50 per hour from 1 October 2014 but warns that government action is still needed to ensure that social care employers comply.
The commission said that despite an HMRC investigation finding that non-compliance with the minimum wage was higher than average in the social care sector, government action has been slow to materialise.
It said that the government should stump up more money to help fund a minimum wage rise in the sector and ensure forthcoming statutory guidance on commissioning requires councils to take the costs of care into account when purchasing services.
“We urge the government to take further action, including that promised statutory guidance on commissioning should include a requirement for local authorities to take into account the actual costs of care, including the national minimum wage,” said the commission’s summary of its 2014 report.
The call was welcome by the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA).
“We all want to see the homecare workers properly rewarded for the demanding and essential work they do. However, local authorities persistently failed to recognise these cost pressures,” said UKHCA chair Mike Padgham.
“It is imperative that a government which acts on the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations to increase the minimum wage also heeds the commission’s urge for a requirement for councils to take account of the full costs of care in the statutory guidance it is currently preparing on commissioning of social care.”
The commission said that the real value of the minimum wage has fallen slightly in recent years and now that the labour market is improving the wage should rise to restore its value. It added that a further increase should follow in 2015.
The commission’s full 2014 report is due to be published in the next few weeks.