Labour’s Leader on South Gloucestershire Council is seeking to ascertain what support vulnerable adults should expect from the council to cope with a large bill caused by a recent change in Government policy, following conversations with representatives from a local charity, Hft.
Councillor Pat Rooney has been promised more information from the Conservative councillor responsible for Adult Care in the district following her questioning the guidance his department has received and is giving to vulnerable adults commissioning support for Sleep-Ins from a personal budget.
Sleep-Ins are when a member of support staff sleeps over in a supported person’s home to deliver “just in case” support overnight. Historically, such shifts would have been paid at a flat rate, and was commissioned as such by local authorities.
A recent change in Government policy means that Sleep-Ins are now to be paid at the National Living Wage, with HMRC enforcement of this change resulting in demands for a six-year backlog of ‘underpayment’. This has led to a £400m bill for the sector.
Billy Davis, Public Affairs & Policy Manager at Hft, an Emersons Green headquartered charity that supports adults with learning disabilities brought this to the Council’s attention. There is concern that, while the government has recently launched the Social Care Compliance Scheme (SCCS) for providers, there has been comparatively little guidance for some of the 65,000 disabled people in England who have personal budgets in the form of direct payments, which makes them individually responsible for commissioning their care. Last month Minister Margot James told the Commons that the Government expects local authorities ‘to work with HMRC to ensure the right outcomes for such individuals’.
Billy Davis of Hft comments:
“As it stands now the sector is being charged for Sleep-In shifts at a rate that it was never previously paid to provide. Staff teams are critical to providing quality, person-centred care and we firmly believe that they should be paid a fair wage for what they do. But, it is unreasonable to penalise social care providers and those on individual budgets for what was legal and accepted practice at the time. We have raised this issue with South Gloucestershire Council to gain clarity around what advice government has issued to local authorities, and how we can work together to assist those people we support on individual budgets.”
Councillor Pat Rooney adds:
“Whilst no-one is disputing that social care staff deserve to be paid well for the essential work that they do, the solutions to the Sleep-In crisis must be fair and equitable when the employer is a vulnerable adult on a personal budget. The Government seems to be passing the buck to an extent, so I am pursuing answers locally so that the individuals affected can have greater clarity on this matter from South Gloucestershire Council.”