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By Debbie le Quesne

Posts Tagged ‘zero hours contracts

Care sector zero hours contracts: The price of an economic uplift?

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Listen to the TV headlines, catch the soundbites and film clips of a smiling Chancellor and we’re telling the world and its wife we are in economic recovery.

True, the figures are encouraging – but at what cost? While the mega-rich seem to be getting richer, those who are are lesser mortals are not yet really enjoying the same mirth as Mr Osborne.

You would like to think – though to do so would be naive – that economic recovery would be reflected some in the care sector. But data from the Office for National Statistics suggests something different.

Some 583,000 people are employed on a zero-hours contract, with the largest numbers in health and social care, hospitality and administration.

The growth of zero hour contracts for me spells out a very clear message that our economic stability is a best fragile. Few want to invest in more moral contracts that dictate holiday entitlement and set hours.

I can understand it too. Do you know that more people are employed on zero-hours contracts in the public and third sectors than in the private sector?

Economic restraint, the cuts and uncertain futures drive this kind of employer purchase.

According to the figures more than 300,000 workers in the care sector are employed on zero-hours contracts, including a whopping 60 per cent of domiciliary care workers.

My biggest concern is that if our employees are given inadequate terms and conditions, how will that impact on the care we give?

We have seen scandals aplenty and the 15-minute call debate still rumbles on.

So many carers and care managers feel their contributions to reforming social care are undervalued. Personally, I don’t believe there is a single politician who really knows the true worth of when out industry achieves.

I know too, that many of our West Midland Care Association members desperately want to up the pay and conditions of their staff, but their hands are tied because the one-trick pony cut, cut, cut policy plays out its worst scenarios in the care sector.

Dignity, choice, excellence in care and personalised packages are great goals.

While you celebrate, Mr Osborne, the economic uplift, please spare a thought for those who are helping you achieve it. We spend much out our time in the care business doing risk assessments on care packages that benefit the clients. Perhaps it would be worth considering doing a similar exercise on those private sector providers which are paramount to delivering the government’s Care Bill reforms.

We really are worth it!

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Zero hour contracts: Between a rock and hard place

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The issue of zero hours contracts in the care sector raised its head again yesterday – this time care of The Guardian’s social care online columns.

On reading the report from Roger Kline research fellow at Middlesex University and an associate with Public World, I find myself between a rock and hard place.

He observes that when Robert Francis QC reported earlier this year on the shocking treatment of elderly patients at Mid Staffordshire Hospital, several of his recommendations explicitly applied to adult social care.

Why? Because, he argues, it was clear from numerous reports from the Care Quality Commission and others that the care of the elderly in all settings – including residential and nursing homes, and in their own homes – was troubling.

Kline then adds: “There is plenty of evidence linking the treatment of staff to the safety and quality of care the elderly receive. Above all, good care relies on competent, trained, supervised staff having the time and continuity to build relationships with vulnerable adults.” That is wholly true.

What I find most disturbing is the fact that according to Skills for Care, 307,000 social care workers are now employed on zero hours contracts.

This accounts for one in five of all professionals in this sector and the numbers are growing rapidly.

Kline’s economic analysis is simple (and again true). “This is happening for two main reasons. Firstly the immense squeeze on council finances (notwithstanding the recent transfer of some adult social care funding from the NHS) has led most councils to adopt commissioning models for home care that fund providers for fixed and often unrealistically short time slots. . .

“ Secondly, ‘personalisation’ has led to a growth of a section of the homecare workforce with virtually no employment rights at all – often on bogus self-employed terms – as well as raising serious questions about support, quality, training and supervision,” he writes.

There is a huge push from local authorities to contract out both residential care and home care provision, but as Kline points out, it comes at a time when council funds are being slashed.

It’s a bizarre contradiction of logic that as the elderly population rises to record levels, funding to care for them and the resources and staff required to do just that are being withdrawn.

I see first-hand the current stringent economies in play as my members desperately try to deliver care with little financial rewards. Morally I cannot support the zero hours contracts and most definitely, good care needs to have relationships built between carers and their charges. But I understand too that zero hours contracts can be the only way forward for some care operations. It would be easy for me to judge, but only if I have evidence of compromised care in such circumstances,

Sometimes I wish we lived life in primary colours – it would be much easier then.

Kline adds: “As personal budgets proliferate and block contracts decline, because councils cannot guarantee set volumes of work to providers, the uncertainty of funding and contracts is passed on to staff, in the form of zero hours contracts and other ways in which they pick up the funding slack.”

Is this really the way ahead?

Charity social researchers The Resolution Foundation argue that social care is not the place for such contracts; the Social Care Institute for Excellence agrees and advises commissioners and providers to ensure staff have set-hours; and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade Vince Cable has promised a review on such practice.

Government movers and shakers, who sit on the fence with their ears nailed to the floor, have long beset the care sector. Could we please have a proper decision on the zero hours soon, please.