Around half of English councils don’t know if social care providers in their area pay the national minimum wage, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).
A third of these local authorities will also not hold this information until January 2016 or later, the LGA’s final stocktake of councils’ readiness to deliver the Care Act 2014 found.
The Care Act says councils should assure themselves and have evidence that providers meet national minimum wage standards. This includes appropriate remuneration for any time staff spend travelling between appointments.
The LGA asked all 152 English local authorities if they knew whether or not providers in their area were paying care staff the minimum wage and, if not, when they were likely to have this information.
Seventy councils said they already held this information. Of the remaining 82 councils, 47 said they would know by October 2015, 17 by or later than April 2016, and 16 were unsure.
David Pearson, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), said the number was so low because councils had previously not seen it as their responsibility to ensure providers comply with national minimum wage standards.
“The focus of contract monitoring has been on the quality of care that people receive and councils have taken the view that complying with the law and paying the national minimum wage, including time for travel and training, rests with the providers of care,” he said.
“However, the Care Act changes that and requires local authorities to develop a diverse, improving and sustainable social care market. This includes assuring themselves staff are getting paid the national minimum wage.”
Pearson added that Adass were working with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to provide councils with guidance on how to meet the requirement “efficiently and effectively”.
“We want all local authorities to assure themselves [that providers are paying the national minimum wage] as soon as possible and that’s why we’re taking practical steps to get detailed advice from the HMRC,” he said.
The LGA’s stocktake was conducted in January and February and found that all councils bar one felt confident in their ability to implement the Care Act, which came into force yesterday.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no excuse for employers that fail to pay the minimum wage and we expect councils to ensure staff are not short changed. From April, our Care Act will require local authorities to be assured care providers they contract are paying at least the national minimum wage.”