Essential overnight social care support services are at risk because of government inaction over sleep-in payments, according to an open letter to ministers.
The letter signed by care, health and education organisations urges the government to clarify how sleep-ins should be remunerated.
It also calls on government to:
- confirm that the current legal position means employers will not face potential HMRC retrospective action to recover underpayment of national minimum wage for sleep in work
- work with organisations to produce information so that people who use services and their families, the workforce, employers and commissioners understand how sleep-ins should be remunerated
- work with providers and local government on a sustainable funding solution that will ensure care workers are valued and fairly paid.
A recent court of appeal judgment overturned a previous decision that would have resulted in sleep-in staff being paid minimum wage for shifts, leading to a £400m back pay bill for care providers. However, Unison has now lodged an appeal against the most recent ruling, creating renewed uncertainty for employers over retrospective and ongoing costs.
Without clear information on the long-running sleep-in payments saga, the letter warns, commissioners and providers may move in ad hoc ways, something that would threaten the provision of a vital night time service. The ongoing lack of clarity affects not only care provider organisations, but individuals using personal budgets or direct payments to employ and manage support staff.
The letter also stresses the existing fragility of the social care market, with adult social care facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing levels of provision.
Steve Scown, chair of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said: “Hard working staff also deserve to have the sleep-ins saga solved because a strong and confident workforce is vital if support services are to properly respond to the needs of individuals, families, carers and communities.”