Latest Public Sector News


Councils failing to fund the minimum wage in the UK homecare sector

Source: PSE - April/ May 15

Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director at the United Kingdom Homecare Association, talks to PSE about the under-funding of homecare services for older people across the country. David Stevenson reports.

Most councils failed to pay the recommended minimum price for homecare of £15.74 an hour last year, a report from the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) has revealed. 

The report, which provides a snapshot of the rates paid for older people’s homecare during a sample week in September 2014, used data obtained from FoI requests to 211 public bodies. 

It revealed that just 28 councils of the 203 authorities where an average price could be established paid their independent and voluntary sector homecare providers fees at or above UKHCA’s minimum price for homecare. 

UKHCA’s £15.74 figure is an estimate of what homecare, commissioned by local authorities, should cost. At this price, providers can meet their legal obligations, including the national minimum wage, while being able to run a sustainable business. The UK average was only £13.66 per hour. 

“Councils will no doubt argue whether the minimum price is spot on for every authority, but it is more likely to be above £15.74 than the £13.66 that is averaged out across the country,” said Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director at UKHCA. 

At least 70% of all homecare is purchased by the state, mostly by councils, and by health and social care trusts in Northern Ireland. 

Angel added that the rates so many councils are paying providers illustrates the “root cause” of the unacceptably low pay and conditions of the homecare workforce, and genuine risks of underpayment of the national minimum wage. 

North/south divide 

PSE was told that there is a real north/south divide in England, with “the situation getting worse the further north you get”. 

London is the exception, with its rates low for the south – the ‘Homecare Deficit’ study showed the weighted average price for older people’s homecare in Greater London is £13.61 per hour.

Angel noted that while the cause could not be demonstrated from the analysis, he suspects that this is accounted for by a combination of the exceptional nature of London’s population and the ability of London boroughs to take advantage of the “significant competition between the large number of homecare providers in the capital”. 

The regions showing the lowest weighted average hour prices for homecare were Northern Ireland (£11.35) and the North East (£11.64) and North West of England (£12.17). These particular regions account for 29 of the 51 councils with the lowest average prices in the UK.

 “Further north, there are historically underfunded councils, and the minimum wage has crept up despite real-terms decreases in local authority rates,” Angel said. “Local government needs to prioritise the care for older and disabled people, and central government needs to make sure there is enough money for adult social care. 

“It is tragic that underpayment of minimum wage and the unacceptable practice of shortened homecare visits illustrate the impact on people of a largely undervalued and underfunded care system. We urge providers, councils and government to work together to ensure that the risk of this practice becoming widespread is prevented.” 

Held to account 

A key recommendation of the report is that governments of all four UK administrations should take responsibility for holding commissioning bodies to account, by requiring statutory regulators to undertake “effective oversight of the commissioning functions of councils and trusts”. 

“We have called for a statutory regulator to oversee this which, logically, in England, is the Care Quality Commission (CQC), as it would be the most joined-up way to do it,” said Angel. “External scrutiny on this sort of issue is needed.” 

The CQC said it will examine the findings in its State of Care report, to be published later this year. 

The president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), David Pearson, said each council should work with providers to establish the costs of care.

“This must take into account the local economic environment, so that fees are consistent with the expectations of an improving social care market,” he said. “But the cost of an average rise of £2 an hour to meet the UKHCA costing model would be a total cost of £342m – a sum which, should we pay it now, would require us to make very serious further cuts in parts of the adult social care service.” 

But Angel told us this was money that should already have been paid to homecare staff. “It is never acceptable that homecare workers should be underpaid the national minimum wage, nor should the minimum wage be seen as an appropriate recognition of the care and essential skills of the homecare workforce.” 

PSE was told that there are more hard decisions that local authorities have to make, but they have a statutory duty to purchase social care services. 

“If they don’t pay sustainable prices then the market in their local area could collapse and they would have to provide it themselves. But that is over twice the cost that the independent and voluntary sector will do it for,” said Angel. 

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >