The amount some Yorkshire councils pay for care for some of its most vulnerable older residents is inadequate and among the lowest in the country, a campaign group has claimed.
Figures obtained by the UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) showed 12 Yorkshire councils were paying below the national average of £13.66 an hour for agency homecare, which it says makes the care market “commercially unsustainable” and risks losing the best qualified staff.
North East Lincolnshire paid just £11.65 per hour for homecare, while in Rotherham that payment was £12.42. Both were in the lowest 25 per cent of all councils in the UK.
Barnsley, Bradford, Sheffield, Hull, Doncaster, Leeds, Calderdale, East Riding, Kirklees and Wakefield all paid below the national average during a sample week in September last year. Across Yorkshire as a whole, the average was £13.23 per hour, the third lowest English region.
The UKHA believes a minimum of £15.74 per hour is necessary to ensure careworkers receive the minimum wage and paid travel time, and to meet the costs of running services. Older people’s homecare includes personal care such as washing and dressing, plus help getting around the house, shopping, and administering medication.
The majority of homecare is funded by the state, usually by councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), but are largely delivered under contract by independent providers.
The price paid by the council would go towards meeting all agency costs, including regulators’ fees, office costs and wages.
UKHCA policy director Colin Angel said low prices paid for homecare services carried a number of risks, including poor terms and conditions for the workforce, insufficient resources to organise the service and insufficient training for the complex work that supports “the increasingly frail and disabled individuals who qualify for state-funded support.”
North Yorkshire paid the most for homecare – averaging £17.06 – and was the only council in the region to pay above the price the UKHCA believes is required.
However, the UKHCA said this could be due to the “extreme rural nature” of the county, meaning travel costs had to be taken into account. The county council is currently under-going a re-procurement of services which is likely to reduce the price paid. Mike Webster, North Yorkshire County Council’s assistant director of health and adult services, said delivering care over such a large area was “a real challenge”, and costs varied. While several agencies currently deliver care, plans are in place to use fewer, especially around the Selby and Harrogate areas, to reduce costs.
North East Lincolnshire CCG, which is currently reconfiguring the way that homecare is delivered, said it is working with providers to ensure minimum wage and staff travel time remuneration is met. Unlike North Yorkshire, its small geographic area allows it to keep travel costs down, a spokesperson said.
Shona McFarlane, director of Health and Wellbeing for Rotherham Borough Council, said the authority’s first priority when commissioning care services is to ensure the provision of safe and effective services.
She added: “A re-tendering exercise has just been carried out and and new providers have recently been appointed, resulting in an increase in the amount quoted in the survey.”
The Government said it was taking action to ensure care providers are paying staff the minimum wage.