The amount paid for home care services for vulnerable people in East Anglia has come under intense scrutiny after it emerged the majority of councils across the country are paying less than the industry recommended minimum.

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The UK Homecare Association (UKHCA), the representative body for organisations that provide personal care to people in their own homes, estimates that the minimum price for homecare services should be £15.19 per hour.

This figure is based on carers being paid the national minimum wage and also takes into account travel costs, national insurance contributions, pensions and all the other costs of running a care organisation.

Now the care minister has called for a revolution in the way that councils commission this type of care - saying they need to move away from “paying by the hour”.

Norfolk County Council purchases 30,500 hours of home care a week with a variety of block and spot contracts. The rates range from £13.28 to £15.84 an hour with an average of approximately £14.71 per hour.

Catherine Underwood, the council’s director of integrated commissioning for adult care, said: “In 2012 we carried out an exercise with Norfolk Independent Care, the care provider representative organisation, to test whether we were paying a reasonable price and used the UKHCA’s model.

“That indicated that the cost of care at the time was being met by the fees the council was paying, even at the lower levels.

“However, price is by no means the only way of assessing value for money – and when it comes to allocating contracts for care, quality is a the most heavily weighted criteria. In fact, potential service providers have to pass quality criteria processes before their price is even considered.

“All of our contracts with providers include significant measures for monitoring and assessing the quality of service provided – and taking action if any problems arise.”

The lowest hourly rate that Cambridgeshire County Council pays for week-day home care during the day is £13.68 per hour. The authority set a maximum price of £15.82 and a minimum of £13.50 per hour when it last tendered for home care services. However, the minimum amount paid has fallen as the rate in 2010-11 was £16.24 per hour.

UKHCA’s policy director Colin Angel said: “The price of an hour of homecare is a vital question for local and central government, statutory regulators, trades unions and the public. It is essential that a viable regulated homecare sector is available to support the care of older and disabled people who choose to remain at home. The prices councils pay for care must cover the costs of the workforce, including - as a minimum - full-compliance with the prevailing National Minimum Wage, including the time spent travelling between service users’ homes.”

Care minister Norman Lamb said: “There are too many care workers who are not getting paid properly. Breaches of the national minimum wage are quite widespread in this care sector, which is completely unacceptable. You will never get great care on the back of exploiting low paid workers.”

He said it was important for councils to move away from the idea of buying care by the hour, and the government had provided funding to help the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services to develop a “gold standard” of commissioning to guide councils towards payment which is linked to better outcomes.

For example, providing incentives to the care provider to improve the mobility and wellbeing of the individuals in its care, which in turn has a knock-on impact in helping to reduce costs “further down the line”.

7 comments

  • I have a friend who is a carer and a very good one too. She gets just above minimum wage and thats with her qualifications in the job!!. She says at times she only gets 5 minutes to get from one side of the city to the other for her visist!! I too would so love to be a carer, such a rewarding job (not financial, I appreciate), however so worried to go into the industry due to some of the horror stories my friend has told me by the companies she has worked for in the past.

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    luanmapo

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • I think the providers of care should be investigated as the admin charges are excessive at £8.50 an hour out of the average £14.71 we are told they receive,once again privatisation only benefits a few fat cats.

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    Cynical Bob

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • I spent many years working as a carer and it was always a low paid job. The care agencies rely on the goodwill and integrity of the carers to provide decent homecare in the minimal time slot they allow you to perform your job. There are a lot of excellent caring carers out there doing a wonderful job for very little monetary reward but sadly there are also ones who do the job who dont actually 'care'. I worry for the elderly people out there who get a bad service and daren't say anything about it because they think that if they complain they won't get a carer to help them so they put up with it.

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    Mrs Meldrew

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • Interesting! UKHCA’s policy director Colin Angel said: “The price of an hour of homecare is a vital question for local and central government, statutory regulators, trades unions and the public. It is essential that a viable regulated homecare sector is available to support the care of older and disabled people who choose to remain at home. The prices councils pay for care must cover the costs of the workforce, including - as a minimum - full-compliance with the prevailing National Minimum Wage, including the time spent travelling between service users’ homes.” Very few (if any) care companies pay hourly rate for travel time between service user homes. Perhaps the local authorities should enforce this with the care company providing the care. Some of us lose several hours per day travelling for just the mileage allowance set by the provider. This forces care staff working for minimum wage to make their wage up by being outside their homes and away from their families sometimes from 06:30 -22:00 just to get basic full time hours. This leaves no time for a work life balance and because they get tired inevitably causes mistakes to be made, either to the detriment of the service user or to themself.

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    Shanski

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

  • I agree with mrs Meldrew up to a point but I have to ask why should carers be doing a paid job for the love of it? The bottom line is that they need to earn money it is their job not voluntary work! She states she worry's about carers who don't care? She probably means the ones who are efficient at their job but not a free ride i.e not prepared to work over their allocated paid slot. Good for them I say why should they?

    Report this comment

    getalife

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • I spent many years working as a carer and it was always a low paid job. The care agencies rely on the goodwill and integrity of the carers to provide decent homecare in the minimal time slot they allow you to perform your job. There are a lot of excellent caring carers out there doing a wonderful job for very little monetary reward but sadly there are also ones who do the job who dont actually 'care'. I worry for the elderly people out there who get a bad service and daren't say anything about it because they think that if they complain they won't get a carer to help them so they put up with it.

    Report this comment

    Mrs Meldrew

    Tuesday, February 4, 2014

  • Not sure I agree with the comment that people 'don't care'. In the care industry, and especially in domiciliary care there is little time for training, retraining and supervision. There are many carers in the role who have not done care work before and without good training you will not get the best care, this is lack of resources rather than lack of care. Many care workers are out of their homes and away from their family for 15 hours a day and only getting paid for the allocated time slots. This means you can work from your first to your last job of the day with no refreshment or toilet break, and if you do have time you don't always have a facility. You may work 15 hours with a break where all you can do is sit in your car during this weather because there is no time to go anywhere else. Your day may be 15 hours long with 3 breaks in between where you sit in your car like this and during the time you are waiting to see the next person you are not getting paid. People may think that carers don't care, when in reality they are exhausted and cold and worried about getting to the next service use on time and how to make up the time they don't get with their own family. Care workers also get treated badly by some of the people who use the service and their families. None of this seems to be taken into consideration when people think there are carers who do not care.

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    Shanski

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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