As Government continues to side-step its responsibilities for statutory care by delaying a commitment to fund the six year 'sleep-in' overnight care back pay bill, Royal Mencap Society has been joining the dots on the impact.
Discussions with organisations across the children and elder care sector have revealed a problem which goes much deeper and wider than learning disability and indicate that the £400 million financial liability facing the learning disability sector is only part of the story.
Mencap chairman, Derek Lewis, thanked organisations from across the care sector for their candour and called on Government to avert a self-inflicted crisis that threatens to engulf the future of children's and learning disability care.
Mencap chairman Derek Lewis said:
"We are grateful for the openness of organisations from across the care sector.
"We already knew that the impact on learning disability care would be devastating but it is only now emerging that many of the country's 2000 specialist children's homes would also be seriously affected.
"It is estimated that up to 25% could close almost immediately if the Government fails to fully fund or only partially funds the sector's sleep-in back pay bill.
"Like our own, these services would be some of the hardest to replace and once they are gone, they are gone."
Jonathan Stanley, CEO of the Independent Children's Homes Association, added:
"Demand for places in our children's homes has never been higher and the significant need for our young people may mean that a third have already had at least five placements before, often in the preceding 12 months.
"But it is in small children's homes, that so many youngsters find the one person that can help them transform their lives. Sadly, all this is being put at risk.
"Sleep-in back payments, which will range from £40,000 to over £2 million, for each provider, depending on their size the and number of homes they run, will be the final nail in the coffin for so many who have faced a zero increase in fees from local authorities, the only purchaser and income source, over a number of years.
"This does not take into account current increases in NMW payments which bring additional costs ranging from £11,000 to £1.4 million per year, none of which is being funded. Like Mencap, our members want to be able to pay hard working staff, but simply cannot afford do so.
"Without urgent Government assistance, the residential child care sector faces profound change and one of the most important care options for vulnerable children will be lost forever."
Mr Stanley went on to explain that his members had recently completed a sector wide survey, to help ICHA gain a better understanding of the overall impact of the back pay bill for sleep-in overnight care. Three quarters of the 1500 homes represented by his members believed their children's homes to be at risk up to and including closure. As 75% of all children's homes are now run by independent providers this represents a very grave threat to the future of children's residential care.
Mencap chairman Derek Lewis expressed his dismay that Government had not thought it necessary to conduct full impact and risk assessments across the care sector before changing its interpretation of NMW laws with respect to providers of statutory care services. The whole gamut of care from children's and learning disability to elder care clearly being threatened.
Clare Dorer, CEO of NASS, National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools, added:
"Enforcing the backdating of sleep-in payments at a time when our special schools face extreme funding challenges risks the quality of care given to our children and young people with the highest levels of need.
"NASS supports Mencap in calling on Government to support the children's residential sector with a sleep-in solution that enables us to meet the needs of children with SEN and complex disabilities."
Colin Angel, Policy Director at United Kingdom Homecare Association, said:
“Homecare providers recognise the importance of paying their workers properly for the vital personal care and support they provide to older and disabled people.
“Sleep-in duties generally form a smaller proportion of most homecare providers’ total pay bill. However, homecare providers’ potential exposure to back payment liabilities may have a catastrophic impact on the viability of some providers, and could seriously undermine the short to medium-term financial position of others.
“Back pay is also likely to leave some homecare providers needing to minimise their losses, including accelerating their withdrawal from services funded by local councils. Regrettably, we are aware of a number of councils continuing to invite tenders for homecare services with an expectation of paying rates lower than necessary to cover the costs of the National Living Wage for sleep-in duties, or refusing to increase inadequate payments already in place.”
Mr Lewis concluded:
"The Government has created a perfect storm for providers from across the care sector.
"I urge Government to recognise its responsibilities and commit to funding all 'sleep-ins' back payment liabilities. Assuming, as has been suggested by some, that providers can 'trade through' the crisis that is about to engulf children's and learning disability care would be a catastrophic mistake.
"As Government looks set to impose a new compliance regime for providers it might spare a thought for the people - young and old - whose lives depend on the future of high-quality, independently provided social care. Once it’s gone, it's gone."
For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact the Mencap press office on 020 7696 5414 or firstname.lastname@example.org or for out of hours 07770 656 659.
Notes to editors
1. ICHA member survey on impact of 'sleep-ins' back pay liabilities on independent children's homes sector – https://we.tl/fG8lKVNxO2
For further information please contact: email@example.com or telephone 07794 779893.
There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. Mencap works to support people with a learning disability, their families and carers by fighting to change laws, improve services and access to education, employment and leisure facilities. Mencap supports thousands of people with a learning disability to live their lives the way they want.
For advice and information about learning disability and Mencap services in your area, contact the Learning Disability Helpline on 0808 808 1111 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a learning disability?
A learning disability is a reduced intellectual ability which can cause problems with everyday tasks – for example shopping and cooking, or travelling to new places – which affects someone for their whole life.
People with a learning disability can take longer to learn new things and may need support to develop new skills, understand difficult information and engage with other people. The level of support someone needs is different with every individual. For example, someone with a severe learning disability might need much more support with daily tasks than someone with a mild learning disability.
Learning disability is not a mental illness or a learning difficulty. Very often the term ‘learning difficulty’ is wrongly used interchangeably with ‘learning disability’.
2. National Association of Independent Schools and Non-Maintained Special Schools (NASS)
For further information please contact: email@example.com or telephone 0791 745 1812.
3. United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA)
UKHCA, United Kingdom Homecare Association, is the professional association for homecare providers that represents around 2000 larger providers, the majority of whom deliver elder care.
For further information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone Michelle Gederon on 020 8661 8165.