By Debbie le Quesne

Dom care providers ‘not being paid enough’ for services

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The UK Homecare Association calculations of the £15.19 hourly rate for delivering personalised care at home indeed provides a good benchmark by which to measure payments.

It assumes a care worker is receiving the minimum wage – currently £6.31 for workers over the age of 21.

Added to that is the cost of travel – time and mileage and also the cost of covering national insurance contributions, holiday pay, training and pensions.

Finally there are the costs the agency accrues. These can add another 30 per cent to the figure, according to the UK Homecare Association.

Sadly, few regions enjoy the luxury of such a generous figure, so I’m not surprised that Sandie Keene, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, believes the value of care should be higher.

In the West Midlands the local authority average is £12.26 and while my own West Midlands Care Association would wish for a more realistic fee, I’m heartened by the fact that I believe most of our local authorities are genuinely trying to navigate a realistic line between an affordable budget and care quality excellence.

It’s my experience that geography is god with all domiciliary services. If calls are contained within manageable boundaries payments falling below the ideal can be eked out so a credible, though not perfect, business model can be sustained. Problems arrive, however, where calls are geographically diverse or unpredictably complex and the issue of lengthy travel costs and broken time margins are thrown into the mix.

Reported by the BBC, Trevor Brocklebank, chief executive of Home Instead Senior Care in Warrington, said he refuses to bid for council contracts.

“It’s impossible to deliver quality care for the hourly rate that’s been offered. You have to cut too many corners, cram too may calls and that’s not acceptable,” he told the Radio 4’s File on 4 team.

Colin Angel, of the UKHCA, was reported by the Beeb as saying that fees paid were too low and that “many councils exploit their dominant purchasing power in local markets to reduce prices.”

In the context of fiscal restraint by central government the care industry is just about managing as creative initiatives have taken up slack and capital investments shelved.

However, further savings on the horizon that are demanded by the coalition I believe will pose a huge threat to quality as further cuts decant to front-line workers. Undoubtedly there will be a compromise of the core ethos of personalised care. Put simply: There’s no slack left to take up, and yes, realistic fees should be paid for a service which local authorities cannot provide economically themselves.


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