Less than 15% of councils paid the recommended minimum price for home care of £15.74 an hour last year, figures obtained by the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) have shown.
The £15.74 guide price set by the UKHCA is an estimated minimum necessary for providers to be able to pay their staff the national minimum wage while running a sustainable business.
Just 28 out of 203 UK authorities responding to a Freedom of Information request paid their home care providers the minimum price or above during a sample week last September.
‘Poor terms and conditions’
The report said cheap home care risked poor terms and conditions for workers and insufficient resources to deliver the service.
UKHCA’s policy director Colin Angel said: “Unless this underfunding is addressed, the independent and voluntary sector will continue to struggle to recruit and retain care workers with the right disposition, training and qualifications.
“Ultimately, the care market will become commercially unsustainable for the providers who deliver most of the home care purchased by the state.”
UKHCA found that the average price paid by councils and Northern Irish health and social care trusts for home care was £13.66 an hour, but with significant disparities within and between nations and regions.
In Northern Ireland and North East England, the average prices paid were just £11.35 an hour and £11.64 an hour, while in South West England the average was £15.84. UKHCA said the range in part reflected differences in the cost of living but also pointed to the relatively low price paid in London of £13.61 an hour.
The report went on to make eight recommendations, including authorities and providers being transparent about their costing, and the four UK governments ensuring authorities have the necessary resources to pay providers in a way that meets their “legal and social responsibilities.”
This report comes as research on behalf of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) suggests poorer terms and conditions for workers is linked to poorer care for service users.
The TUC research found workers in privatised services were more likely to work longer hours, receive less pay and be on insecure or temporary contracts.
The study, conducted by the New Economics Foundation, looked at five sectors in which public services have been outsourced to the private sector, including health and social care.
A Care Quality Commission report for the year 2010-11 reported quality standards in public and voluntary sector providers were superior to those in privately run services – which constitute a substantial majority of adult care services.
Meanwhile the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has today issued draft guidelines suggesting that commissioners should ensure that home care workers do not generally make visits of less than half an hour. Shorter visits should only be made where the worker is known to the service users, they are part of a wider package of care and they allow time to complete specific, time-limited staff, such as checking someone is safe.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Who would you rather have treating your sick relative? A low-paid, exhausted private sector worker whose temporary contract make them unable to see the same person more than once, or a public sector employee who is aid a decent salary and is given a proper contract that allows for a long-term care commitment?”
The TUC also called for greater transparency in the commissioning process.
President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), David Pearson said once the Care Act has been implemented next month, councils will be required to ensure fees are high enough to deliver an appropriate quality of care, which includes paying staff the minimum wage and providing training.
He said: “Each local authority should work with providers to establish between themselves the costs of care.
“This must take into account the local economic environment, so that fees are consistent with the expectations of an improving social care market.”