Social Care: Sleepwalking Into A Crisis?

April 2016 saw the introduction of The National Living Wage (NLW).  We ask: How is this impacting on the cost and therefore the provision of sleep duties in adult social care settings?

“Paying for sleep-ins at an hourly rate means that the sector is faced with a real and potentially overwhelming funding crisis.” — Mencap, July 2017

Apple House, as a responsible employer, has been paying its sleep duty staff the NLW since its introduction.  This had a huge impact on our staffing budget.  We, like most providers, see scant if any increases in fees in spite of the introduction of compulsory pension schemes and a further hike in the NLW this April.  So, while employment costs spiral, fee increases are not forthcoming from local authority funders while inflation soared and led to, in real terms, a reduction in fees in comparison to escalating costs.  Surely a recipe for disaster…an economic ticking bomb?

Local authorities are struggling too! Their pot of money is finite and already allocated to meeting the essential needs under a duty of care.  

A report by The Independent this month stated, ‘Uk on brink of social care crisis, Government warned.’ Although the article focuses on care of the elderly, its stark warning has been echoed across all corners of social care including learning disability care provision.

Whilst this blog post isn’t a political rant, I think we all see that funding for social care in the UK has to be increased, ring fenced, targeted to the front line if a real crisis is to be averted and the most vulnerable in our society are to be respected, supported, protected, empowered.

So, what’s the real situation with funding sleep duty, with rightfully paying staff the NLW?

Good question!  At a providers’ forum I attended some months ago, approximately 60-70% of care providers stated they were not paying the NLW hourly rate for sleep duty.  They continued to use the old model of paying a fixed wage to night staff for the sleep element of their shift.  Ah ha! some exclaimed, Be careful! It’s only a matter of time before you’re hauled before a tribunal and forced to back-pay those sleep staff. Humph! replied some.  We’re not paying people by the hour to sleep!  I listened and felt rather relieved that we had taken it upon ourselves to bite the bullet, to pay by the hour right from the get-go.  Yes, it was painful, but to us it seemed logical and fair and right.

Now, those tribunals have started.  Care providers are facing an HMRC crack-down, are being told to pay up to six years back pay.  Mencap are calling for HMRC to hold a stay of execution, for a definitive answer on the whole issue of sleep-in pay.  Meanwhile, what of agencies, of care homes and domiciliary care? What of Grandpa’s sleep-in support worker, your neighbour’s sleep-in support worker, of the workers who sleep-in to keep people safe and cared for, to assist their independence and aid wellbeing…at night in care homes, nursing homes, our parents’ homes? 

What happens to that tier of critical support if the cost of sleep duty increases exponentially while there is no additional funding available to pay for it?  What becomes of the rights of the disabled who are seemingly adrift amidst this brewing storm that everyone is warning is inevitable?

“Already chronically-underfunded care providers and local authorities have to find additional money that simply isn’t there currently.” — Mencap, July 2017

What can we do?

Share share share on social media.  Raise awareness of the impending crisis and please do support Mencap’s initiative to have a stay of execution for social care providers who haven’t been paying the NLW for sleep duty, who face crippling back-pay costs which could lead to home closures.  Lobby your MP so that there is an inquiry that will lead to a definitive decision on sleep duty pay and additional funding for social care.

And, to end on a positive note, let’s not forget all the wonderful and dedicated support workers who work the sleep duty: Thank you! 🙂 

— Jane Montrose, Managing Director




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