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Mears rejects cut-price care contract

Mears rejects cut-price care contract

Mears Group, one of the UK’s leading providers of homecare for elderly and vulnerable people, is withdrawing its services to Essex County Council after 15 years over concerns for safety and pay conditions.Essex County Council’s new homecare contract proposes a rate that is considerably lower than the current rate, despite increases in the National Living Wage, pensions and other areas. It is also well short of the minimum hourly rate of £16.70 per customer recommended by the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), which represents the care industry.Mears believes that no organisation can deliver a care service at the new rate safely or legally.The hourly rate per customer must cover a care worker’s pay and statutory costs such as National Insurance, sick pay, holiday pay and the new Apprenticeship Levy, as well as travel costs, uniforms, equipment, training and background checks. In addition, the rate must cover office costs, including staff for scheduling, supervision and recruitment, as well as a registered care manager as required by the Care Quality Commission.Mears currently employs 202 workers in two locations in Essex, in Colchester and Laindon, and looks after 260 elderly people.Mears Group Executive Director, Alan Long, said: “It is with great reluctance and disappointment that we take this decision. “We have worked successfully with Essex County Council for 15 years, however we are left with no choice but not to renew any homecare contracts with them.“Essex County Council has asked Mears to reduce our charge for homecare when our rate is already below the absolute minimum recommended by UKHCA.“We are sympathetic to the financial pressures facing the Council, however they are unrealistic in the level of pricing required to recruit good quality carers, conform to employment legislation and provide a good, safe and compliant level of service.“We held extensive talks with them, including proposals to make savings for the council without impacting care worker pay or the quality of the service. We have been told it is too late to do anything different, despite the current contract not ending until the middle of November.“We will continue to provide our service until then and will co-operate as best we can to facilitate customers and staff being transferred to a number of as yet unknown providers, however we remain concerned that any provider could deliver a safe and lawful service at the new rate.”