Thursday, 7 April 2011
A UNISON briefing note during elections for Social Care by Helga and Allison
UNISON LOCAL ELECTION BRIEFING: SOCIAL CARE
Social care budgets are being drastically reduced, despite growing need. The 2006 Wanless report identified a £6.6 billion funding gap between now and 2026. With budget cuts in 2011 – 2014, Age UK estimates that this figure is now more likely to be £8.8 billion. An ageing population and growing numbers of people with learning disabilities mean that spending needs to rise at 4% above inflation just to keep pace with demand. As well as local authorities passing on the government grant cut to social care services, there has been little evidence that the additional £2bn that the government provided to help plug the funding gap has been ring fenced to protect care services.
Some facts and figures
Around the country we are witnessing a devastating reduction in care services and jobs:
• Budgets for 2011 – 14 care services being slashed. E.g. £22m in Nottinghamshire and £17.5m in Birmingham
• Residential Care homes - of whom 6/10 rely on public funding - are reducing their services and places, reducing staff and de-registering their homes from CQC through personalisation
• 1 in 5 independent care providers say that they don’t believe they will survive the cuts in 2011 and will close due to reduction in council fees and the move towards contracting smaller numbers of providers
• Establishing arms length employing bodies – often with worse pay and conditions for mostly women workers, giving rise to potential sex discrimination claims
• Service users and providers are legally challenging fee cuts and winning cases
• Voluntary and community providers are receiving less funding, making their provider status unsustainable. Some councils have ended contracts with voluntary providers of day centres, in part because of the personalisation agenda. A recent survey of Community Care readers found that more than half had seen closures of services in their areas
• Increased rationing of care packages being offered by increasing cost prices or by raising the criteria to access public funds
• Meals on Wheels services being closed or privatised, increased prices and use of frozen meals delivered less frequently
• Day care centres, including specialist centres, being closed. Difficulty in accessing centres due to enforcement of direct payments, rather than being offered a mixed personal budget of cash and local services
• Community care transport being cut or rationed. Difficulty in accessing remaining services due to direct payments, rather than personal budget or fee for using the service
• The Association of Directors of Children's Services highlights the dangers of cutting the "vital infrastructure" that helps free-up time for social workers
What’s happening to the workforce?
• Staff cuts on the frontline in all roles and functions of care
• Wages have gone down and turnover has gone up: The average pay for care works is now £6.00 an hour, compared to £6.75 two years ago and the turnover rate of care workers in the private sector is now 25%
• Some local areas cannot cope due to lack of staff and the fact that personalisation has not delivered a care market. The opposite appears to be happening, with a decrease in diversity of providers
• Some councils have had to stop transferring service users to contracted companies due to the high volume of complaints and the fact that the company was not properly staffed
• Vacancies not being filled for adult social workers and occupational therapists, needed to assess the elderly and prevent long periods of bed blocking
• Reduction in local working conditions as well as freezing pay: Care workers are being asked to take further cuts in pay and conditions by removing car allowances and unsocial hours’ payments. Worse still, some authorities are asking workers to stay on call at home without getting paid unless they get called out
• Privatisation: Councils are rushing ahead to privatise remaining in-house services and staff without proper legal re-employment or TUPE transfer agreements
What commitment should council candidates make?
UNISON wants councillors to acknowledge the growing demand for adult social care, show their concern about the Coalition’s cuts and pledge to fight them! It is vital that councillors talk to care users and their families and engage with UNISON and the other unions over the future of care services. There are alternatives to cuts. Local election candidates should make a commitment to:
• Ring-fencing care budgets
• Properly funding care contracts to ensure decent pay, conditions and training and therefore a good service to users
• Ensuring that new starters on private contracts are paid equivalent pay, conditions and pensions to transferred employees
• Setting up companies wholly owned by the council to run in-house services. These companies can compete in the market against voluntary and private providers. In-house trading units could also provide services to people with direct payments who are barred from using traditional council-run services
• Not setting up so-called ‘social enterprises’ just to cut pay and conditions!
• Draw up a parallel budget to show what the council needs to spend to meet local care needs and campaign for it!
Helga Pile – firstname.lastname@example.org
Allison Roche – email@example.com
http://teams.unison.org.uk/departments/ServiceGroups/LocalGov/LGAdmin/Admin/local electionbriefSocial Care.doc
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