Today, the BBC reports that the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), which represents care providers, care agencies and care workers want their members and companies to be paid a minimum of £15.19 an hour to cover wages, training and travel.
The care they provide is often commissioned by local authorities in performing their statutory obligations and duties to “arrange necessary (community care) services” to those assessed in need of such services.
According to the UKHCA data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found that Local Authorities paid that rate in just four out of 101 cases.
One provider said quality care was simply not possible at the levels being paid.
The news has been inundated in recent years with stories of home care workers being asked to provide help and support to often very vulnerable people in 15 minute visits, of care workers not being paid for the travel between the different people they have to support and the ever-increasing demands being placed on staff who have little training, little experience or who are simply unable to provide a decent service in the time allotted.
This of course comes in an environment of major financial constraints being placed on the local authorities which fund such services and commission the care agencies to look after their citizens.
Is it surprising that cost – so often the arbiter of competition to obtain the work – has become not simply a method of fair market forces driving price and quality to workable levels, but has been used – essentially – to keep the price of care fixed (and fixed low) whilst the demand increases and the pot to pay for it remains at best static and – in reality – much less each year in real terms.
Something has got to give – as UKHCA warns – the price that service users pay is inevitably a reduction in quality: the quality of the persons attracted to the work in the first place, the quality of training and monitoring and the quality of the time spent with individuals.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, representing the local authorities (the funders of care) has quite rightly called for a “national debate” on these issues.
UKHCA has echoed this.
But the debate in one form or another has raged now for several years.
It is surely a time for action.
Local authorities are under a legal obligation to arrange such services to people. But the duty does not simply end when they pass the work to a care agency to do.
The responsibility is to provide suitable and sufficient care to meet the person’s assessed and eligible needs.
Quality lies at the heart of that equation.
Cost is its denominator.
We have seen numerous policy statements, initiatives and sound bites released by the government over the last 12 months and more.
What they have in common is an apparent realisation of the problems in the system…but no increase of resources or funding to meet the challenges the system has always faced and is increasingly facing as time marches forwards.
My own view is fairly simple – the more that the country wishes for its health and social care systems to improve and to integrate, the more demand there is likely to be.
Additional support to carers and the cared for is neither cheap, nor is it simple.
Stephensons has a long history of expertise in the field of community care law and has experts in adult care provision, child care, and care funding matters.
We have been involved in a number of important cases in this field. Such services are a duty of the Authorities to provide to persons with eligible and assessed needs, such as the disabled, vulnerable children or the elderly.
Legal Aid may be available, or we have a competitive tariff of fixed fee options to assist people in legal matters in this field.
By Pete Donohue, community care adviser