Social care charities risk closure after rise in staff costs

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Councils need to pick up the tab for unexpected staff cost increases or risk social care charities going under

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2nd December 2015 by Susan Smith 1 Comment

Social care charities are facing a massive increase in staff costs that could see some forced to close unless the public sector lends a hand.

The increase in costs amounts to anywhere between £25,000 and £3m depending on the size of the charity. 

It follows an employment tribunal that ruled social care staff on sleepover duty must be paid the national minimum wage (NMW) for the entire time they are there. Previously, social care providers across all sectors had paid a token amount for staff on sleepovers, who often are not required to work at all.

Sleepover costs are only one part of a number of rising costs facing providers of social care, and these costs are significant

As charities have agreed a fee to provide social care with councils that did not include the costs of the NMW for sleepovers, they are now calling on councils to increase their fees based on the new legal requirement to pay staff in full.

So far, however, despite a call from umbrella body the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) only four councils have agreed to cover the additional staff costs. Edinburgh, Midlothian, East Lothian and Perth and Kinross have all increased the sleepover rate in their contracts.

Another four councils – Falkirk, Glasgow, Fife and the Scottish Borders – are thought to be in talks to resolve the issue, while the remaining 24 councils have not made any change.

Annie Gunner Logan, chief executive of CCPS, is set to write again to councils warning them that their attitude could lead to charities closing or pulling out of contracts to provide services for local authorities. She argued that councils not paying the full cost of the services that charities provide means charities are not able to treat staff as well as they deserve.

She said: "This is the law and we are not complaining. But the reason why a large number of staff are doing sleepovers for less than the living wage is because of the way services are commissioned." 

The Coalition of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) argues that the responsibiliy for the additional costs of sleepovers lies with charities, effectively suggesting it is up to charities to subsidse public services.

Austen Smyth, chief executive of social care charity the Richmond Fellowship, said that social care charities are getting a raw deal from councils in a range of ways. 

"Sleepover costs are only one part of a number of rising costs facing providers of social care, and these costs are significant.

"Funding has for a number of years either been stagnant or cut and this has now reached crisis point. It is a concerning time. These are services that make a difference, which vulnerable people rely on."

4th December 2015 by Edward Harkins

A difficult question to raise - but if we increasingly have charities delivering core public services, and those charities ultimately have to look to local government for bail-outs, - what was the point of going down this route in the first place? That is, what was the point other than the reduction of public sector provision as a matter of ideology and policy?