A new report exposes the widespread and systematic underfunding of homecare services for older people.
The findings provide further evidence of genuine risks to the viability of state-funded homecare services, and the possible consequences for over half-a million people supported at home.
This is despite the increasing recognition that home-based care should be the solution to meeting people’s care needs at home, rather than being treated in hospital.
People who rely on homecare services and those who support them are being short-changed by councils, resulting in avoidable pressures on hospitals and community-based health services.
UKHCA’s analysis also highlights serious implications for recruiting and retaining homecare workers, who are essential for effective home-based care. Careworkers’ pay and conditions are directly affected by low rates paid by councils, which are estimated to purchase around 80% of all homecare in the UK.
Analysis of Freedom of Information Act enquiries sent to 208 local councils in Great Britain and the Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland suggests a £513 million deficit across the UK during 2016/17.
The report exposes the postcode lottery of the prices that individual councils are willing to pay for essential care services, even within the same region.
Homecare providers’ costs will continue to rise, particularly as the new statutory National Living Wage increases from its current £7.20 per hour to around £9.00 by 2018-19. UKHCA notes that homecare providers in many parts of the country need to pay considerably higher than the National Living Wage in order to recruit workers with the skills, abilities and experience needed to deliver safe and effective care.
UKHCA’s Policy Director, Colin Angel, said: “We know that an ageing population is increasing demand for homecare services. Councils which decide to pay inadequate rates for homecare are taking major risks with people’s wellbeing and the jobs of local people who provide care.
“We have already seen evidence of homecare providers leaving the state-funded care market, or closing their doors for good because they cannot afford to remain in business.”
The £513 million funding gap in state-funded homecare care requires urgent action from Government and individual councils, according to the Association.
UKHCA calls on central Government (and devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) to make adequate funding available to councils and Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. This is on the basis that properly funded homecare provides the services that people need, and will dramatically ease the pressures on an over-stretched national health service.
Governments of each of the UK’s four administrations should ensure that councils actually use additional funds intended for social care, to avoid the current postcode lottery and instability in local care markets.
UKHCA says that individual councils must continue to make hard financial decisions which enable them to allocate a greater proportion of their income to homecare services. For councils in England, this includes continuing to raise an additional 2% of council tax as part of the “Social Care Precept” from 2017 onwards.
Colin Angel continued: “People who use homecare services are already experiencing the consequences of unstable care markets.
“Underfunded homecare is an urgent situation, which must not be allowed to continue.”
Teresa Pearce MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “The Tory cuts to local authority budgets have left the vast majority of councils unable to pay for a fragmented and costly social care system.
“With quality deteriorating and staff retention dropping, elderly and disabled people are being denied their right to a dignified and compassionate care system.
“Today’s news from the UK Home Care Association, coming so soon after the Care Quality Commission’s devastating report, proves that social care is in a deep crisis which is worsening by the day. The government must act soon to rescue our social care system.”
This was an official press release from the UK Home Care Association. Comment from Teresa Pearce MP added by Welfare Weekly.