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Home care commissioning ‘unsustainable’

Local authorities must do more to ensure care home workers are paid at least the minimum wage, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has urged. 

The new report warns that poor working conditions, a lack of support and low status and pay for homecare workers threaten older people’s human rights. The high turnover of staff, exacerbated by highly pressured conditions, could risk neglectful or abusive treatment of people receiving care. 

The EHRC found that the rates some local authorities pay “don’t appear to cover the actual costs of delivering care”, with workers often unpaid for travel time or time between visits, resulting in below minimum wage rates. 

Councils have been urged to include these times in their rates, and to be transparent about the amount they pay workers. The report reviewed 25 recommendations the EHRC made in 2011, with the majority of councils having taken “some action”. 

EHRC Commissioner Sarah Veale said: “The current system of commissioning and funding home care is increasingly unsustainable as the number of people requiring care grows every year.                                                                                                                                                          

“Low status, low pay and poor working conditions are leading to high turnover of staff and putting older people's human rights at risk. Care workers perform a hugely valuable role in looking after some of the most vulnerable members of society and at the least should expect to be paid the legal minimum wage rather than being forced to fund transport costs and time spent between visits out of their own pockets. 

“We recognise the extreme financial pressure local authorities are under. However, some authorities have taken innovative action in partnership with providers and older people to improve how they deliver care, without significant increases in expenditure. For example, closing the curtains when people are getting undressed or not talking over them does not cost anything and it makes a difference. 

“The transparent use of carefully considered costing models that take account of all elements of the actual costs of care will make it clear to providers that local authorities expect care workers to be properly paid, trained and supported.” 

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