Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Cabinet Minister for Social Care: Business Focus

Yesterday the Daily Telegraph revealed that the big care companies have a total debt of £5 billion (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/elderhealth/9655229/Britains-biggest-care-home-owners-have-5-billion-debts.html), also yesterday Ed Miliband declared support for the ‘Living Wage’ saying “there are almost five million people in Britain who aren’t earning the living wage” (http://www.labour.org.uk/ed-miliband-speech-on-the-living-wage).

It is probably fair to say that at least one in five of these people are frontline social care workers who are on, or just above, the national minimum wage.

The current minimum wage is £6.19 per hour and the touted living wage is £7.20 per hour, the average pay for a care worker sits neatly in between at £6.65 an hour. So to reach the living wage employers need to find 55p per hour per employee working, on average 40 hours a week for 52 weeks (inc holiday pay) a year. With this applying to over a million people the cost will be around £1.1 billion a year, add into this employers NI contribution etc. and the cost gets higher.

I totally and whole-heartedly agree with the living wage and the benefits of it to social care will be enormous, particularly in terms of recruitment and retention but the real issue is where will the money come from. Most agree that social care funding is in crisis and without promises of extra money to fund the living wage the only place it can come from is existing care services and as noted earlier the debt situation of the bigger care providers hardly suggests that they can afford the living wage whilst maintaining care standards.

Many people easily and comfortably slip in to the idea that social care is a Government run and funded thing yet the reality is, of course quite different. There is no homogenous entity such as the NHS as social care is provided by, according to Skills for Care, approximately 22,100 organisations over 49,700 establishments. Just to put this number in some sort of perspective, the total number of high street bank branches across the UK is just 11,000. This vast, complex myriad of care providers range from the smallest micro-providers to the huge debt-ridden big companies, from not-for-profit voluntary organisations to those owned by offshore parent.

Social care is big business, around 20% of local authority spending in England goes on social care equating to around £21billion per year, so it is no wonder some offshore companies feel there is money to be made, and, of course, this does not include the money paid by those not entitled to local authority support or those who have to pay ‘top-up’ fees to providers.

Yet, despite this seemingly high amount, the payments by local authorities have declined in real terms over the past few years, with eligibility criteria also tightening, and many professionals agreeing that social care needs an urgent injection of real cash to prevent and halt the constant cut back in services.

The business of social care can be as complex as meeting the needs of many individuals who need care services yet everything is the responsibility of a junior minister within the Department of Health.

I truly and honestly believe this needs to change and I would ask you to support my epetition calling for a Cabinet Minister for Social Care - http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/39701