The Social Care Sector faces a new crisis due to the mishandling of legislation to pay National Minimum Wage for carers of people with learning disabilities, who work sleep-in shifts. A new campaign backed by Chesterfield MP Toby Perkins and several disability organisations has been taken to Parliament.
Local Government funds sleep-ins for carers of people with severe learning difficulties. Sleep-in shifts are an integral part of the overall care service and the Government has a statutory obligation to provide this. However, historically Treasury guidance said that because carers were on-call at their client’s house they didn’t qualify for the National Minimum Wage, and could be paid a lower set rate for the hours slept.
This was also the basis on which councils tendered for ‘sleep in’ contracts. Now a recent court case has ruled that carers should have been paid the National Minimum Wage and are ordering care providers to identify and reimburse back pay to all those carers for the last 6 years.
A campaign headed by a coalition of disability groups are calling on the Government to ensure care workers receive their back pay directly from the Government to alleviate the pressure on Local Authorities, care providers and patients and carers who pay using direct payments.
Some care companies face historic demands of as much as £800,000 whilst individuals who used direct payments will also face huge bills as well as the bureaucratic headache of identifying every carer they had for the last few years.
Toby Perkins said “I am very concerned it is the most vulnerable people in society, along with those on the lowest pay, are having to beg for money they are legally entitled to. People with severe learning disabilities and their families need reassurance that they are well looked after 24 hours a day. Carers work can be very demanding and is often undervalued. It is crucial they are paid appropriately and it is absolutely vital that the Government step in and solve this crisis as soon as possible. This is an error entirely of Government’s making and they now need to reimburse local authorities, care companies and individuals, so that they can pay their legal liabilities. I have written to the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to adopt the campaign’s requests as a matter of urgency.”
A group of people met with Toby and others in Parliament to campaign for efficient ways to solve the crisis through an HMRC scheme, which would pay workers back directly. There is pressure for the crisis to be solved before September as providers are obligated to start planning future budgets in April and the sector will be unviable by the 2nd quarter of the next financial year.