Mixed feelings about social care sleep-over ruling

Social careweb

Edel Harris is relieved not to be facing a crippling back-pay bill but says social care workers must be valued more highly

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17th July 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Cornerstone, like many UK social care providers, waited in anticipation to hear the ruling from the Court of Appeal in the case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake.

The Court of Appeal handed down its judgment, addressing the issue of whether staff carrying out overnight ‘sleep-in’ shifts in the care sector are entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for the entire duration of those shifts; the judgement stating very clearly that the NMW does not apply to sleep-in shifts unless the worker is awake for the purpose of working.

I had mixed feelings when I heard the judgement. Like when you hear the news that married friends of yours have decided to break up – you know its for the best but at the same time you feel really saddened by the news.

Edel Harris

Edel Harris

The prospect of having to make large unfunded back payments had threatened to bankrupt many providers, jeopardising the care of vulnerable people and the employment of many people working in our industry. At the same time most good employers, like Cornerstone, do their very best to reward colleagues for the important work they do and any action which results in better pay for social care workers should be welcomed. 

I feel for many of my colleagues who were given false expectations of an entitlement to back pay and they must be feeling very disappointed at the news.   

Cornerstone has been paying sleepovers at NMW per hour for some time now and we will continue to do so irrespective of this ruling. We haven’t yet made a decision about paying sleep-in hours at Scottish Living Wage (SLW), in line with Scottish Government policy, because we don’t yet have confirmation from our commissioning Health and Social Care Partnerships that they will fund the additional costs.

My fear is that, at a time when public funding for social care is already squeezed, available resources are being used to fund sleepovers which leaves very little to be invested in other areas of the system. We also see a worrying reaction from many care managers and commissioners who are now focusing on reducing the overall number of sleepovers because of the cost implications on already stretched budgets. Cornerstone has introduced technology assisted care and increased the number of community responder services to assist with this agenda but as an organisation that currently provides over 44,000 sleepovers per year it is evident that technology and other alternatives will not necessarily have the overall impact required. We are also concerned about the safety of some of the people we support.

Cornerstone currently offers an allowance of £40 per night for an eight-hour sleepover, which is more than many other care organisations, offering top-ups if required to meet the NMW standard. 

We are a good and fair employer and our new model of social care delivery, Local Cornerstone, includes as one of its four objectives to demonstrate we genuinely value social care as a profession. Many organisations will agree with this sentiment but do little about it, other than challenging commissioners to pay them more for the services they provide. We are proud of the fact that we pay our team members £10 an hour and this hourly rate will rise to almost £12 an hour by the end of 2019. We hope the introduction of Local Cornerstone will make conversations about the Minimum or Living Wage in social care irrelevant.

Social care workers deserve a better deal and we hope that by paying more, investing in training and colleague development, creating self managing teams of up-skilled social care practitioners who are trusted to do a great job and by demonstrating that we value social care as a profession, we will be in a position to attract the very best people to work for Cornerstone. 

I am relieved that Cornerstone will not be facing a crippling bill for back payments because that is not in anyone’s best interests. However I am saddened by the fact that our society doesn’t recognise or place value on the social care profession. 

Through the introduction of Local Cornerstone we will continue to do our bit to influence systems change with the overall aim of transforming social care in the UK.

Edel Harris is chief executive of Cornerstone