#SolveSleepIns Alliance Day of Action
TODAY – 27th June, an Alliance covering 34 or more organisations have been in the Houses of Parliament talking to MPs about the issues with the sleep-ins
What the Alliance is saying today is that the sector is in crisis due to the mis-handling of the sleep-in back pay bill and that although theoretically the Local Authorities(LAs) are funded to provide sleep-ins by Central Government , neither providers or LAs haven’t been so funded for the last 6 years – not have personal budget-holders.
They say that the consequences for people depending on care may find it more difficult to get their needs met with less choice and control and maybe less likely to support more independent lives in the community. They suggest that care staff may be made redundant but given the recruitment crisis and that people will still need support this may be less persuasive. Are major risks to crucial community services with more closures likely , more contracts being handed back (already happening with the pressure on adequately funding) and further erosion of the quality of care.
What do they recommend?
They suggest that the Government should fully fund all sleepin back pay and that HMRC start a time-limited fund which pays workers back directly. They also point out that whilst the scheme ensures that low paid workers get their back-pay, many social care providers are local or small organisations and charities – not equipped to efficiently locate their past employees from the last six years. Back pay going directly from the Government to the workers would bypass both Local Authorities and care providers, getting past any potential complications with State Aid rules.
They assert that the sleep-in crisis must be solved by September. Many providers are obligated to start planning future budgets in April and the sector will be unviable by the 2nd quarter of the next financial year.
What About Mencap’s Appeal?
Whilst it would also support that the Government should be liable for the back-bill if it is payable, Mencap was taken to an Employment Tribunal in 2016 where it was ruled that the employee should have been paid the national minimum wage for the sleep-in. Mencap took the case to the Court of Appeal in March on the basis that the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 15 (1) says: “In addition to time when a worker is working, time work includes time when a worker is available at or near a place of work, other than his home, for the purpose of doing time work and is required to be available for such work except that, in relation to a worker who by arrangement sleeps at or near a place of work, time during the hours he is permitted to sleep shall only be treated as being time work when the worker is awake for the purpose of working.” – See more at: https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/watershed-mencap-legal-case-heard-in-court-of-appeal.html#sthash.M9VGLXyI.dpuf
Is paying support staff the minimum wage to sleep-in right or the best use of resources?
Many of us also believe that paying the minimum wage for overnight sleeping is not where funding should be invested. In the context of the years of austerity where LAs have lost a huge amount of funding whilst the care needs have increased, and where they have effectively passed this onto providers, low-paid support staff’s wages, conditions and support have all been cut to the bone. For support staff often working alone in community settings with people with a range of more complex needs to be paid the minimum wage is not the right level of reward, but is resulting in the increasing difficulty of recruiting staff of the right calibre. We have some amazing people working in the field but we have gone backwards in the last few years in support, development and training. Getting and retaining people however committed they are means good wages with incentives to train and develop and a good career pathway based on values, skills and proven competence. It looks as if we’re in danger of encouraging support staff to be over-protective if they rely on the sleep-in pay to get a decent wage, so wanting to retain the need for sleep-ins when some people may learn to manage with on-call support only. It also encourages commissioners to commission congregate settings to save money by sharing sleep-ins. However these keep people apart from their community, don’t provide for the range of needs but also are likely to be the next generation of institutions… and without external oversight makes abuse more likely.
We need no perverse incentives – what we do need is good pay and conditions that recognise the values and skills needed.