A report from UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) published today raises the issue of local councils paying homecare providers less and less, putting the whole sector under enormous financial strain and limiting its ability to deliver high quality care to vulnerable adults.
The report finds that publicly-funded older people’s homecare is under threat of a £513 million shortfall in what councils are paying providers. The UKHCA estimates that in order for homecare services to function effectively, a council needs to pay a provider £16.70 an hour, to cover business costs, ensure staff are paid the new National Minimum Wage of £7.20 per hour and allow for 50p of profit. However, the report states that councils are on average paying providers £2 per hour less than this for their services. Some are paying as little as £12 on hour. This situation can only get worse as Local Government is already forecasting a £4bn shortfall in funding before 2020. The knock-on effect is the tremendous strain on providers’ budgets and their ability to deliver these critical services.
This is a very serious problem for all groups concerned. The UK’s ageing population means that demand for homecare services is only going to increase over the next few decades, with the country already looking after one million more over-75s than it was five years ago. However, funding for the sector is highly unlikely to rise in proportion to demand – Government reform of the social care sector has been put on hold, meaning even greater pressure on providers. Add to this the necessary increase in staffing costs in line with the rise in the National Minimum Wage to £9 in 2020, and a perfect storm is brewing.
It is clear that as a society we need to find a 21st Century solution to the social care-funding crisis, and soon If we are unable to do so, many providers will collapse, putting millions of vulnerable people at risk of having their care needs unmet – a grim thought. Providers are working hard to ensure they can care for their clients despite this shortfall, but asking them to absorb even more cost is unfair and impractical in the long-term.