One of the UK’s leading providers of homecare for elderly and vulnerable people has been forced to serve notice to both Liverpool City and Wirral councils for offering new rates that would lead to unworkable pay and conditions for care workers.Mears Group has written to officials at both councils to express concern and disappointment at the offered charge rates.Liverpool City Council has made a proposed change to the hourly rate of just £13.10 for home care, while Wirral Council is offering £12.92 – both of which are nothing short of encouragement to providers to breach the National Living Wage.The proposed charge rates fall well short of the minimum £16.70 recommended by the United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), which represents the care industry, and Mears believes that no organisation could legally deliver the care service required at the rate proposed by the councils.Executive Director Alan Long said: “Our top priority is to provide a quality service to people requiring care with well-deserving staff being paid a decent wage.“As such, the new offers by Liverpool City Council and Wirral Council represent extremely irresponsible – possibly illegal – action that we and others will have to challenge at every level.”The change in minimum wage to the new Living Wage alone, has seen an increase in cost to providers of 11%, with further changes taking this to 40% by 2020.Liverpool City Council’s values say it will:
- Do everything it can to provide excellent services and encourage our partners to do the same
- Continually improve what it does and how it does it
- Focus on outcomes rather than processes.
While Wirral Council’s strategic objectives include:
- Protecting the vulnerable
- Supporting older people to live independently in their homes and help prevent social isolation
- And supporting people with disabilities to increase their independence.
Mr Long added: “The new rate is in direct conflict to these objectives and values and, while we have sympathy for the financial pressures on local authorities, we have no sympathy for any council that is bullying providers into operating illegally.“We have contacted both Liverpool City Council and Wirral Council on a number of occasions to discuss this in depth but both have refused to accept that they are simply not paying enough, which is irresponsible and deeply worrying.“This is the first time Mears Group has ever had to take action of this nature, but we will not operate in an illegal way and we do not see how any other provider can do so either.“The people who will suffer the most are those receiving care and that is completely and utterly unacceptable.“We will of course support any transition of services to new providers, but have major doubts that any provider could operate legally and effectively at this rate. It will be hugely unsettling for service users and staff, and would not be required if the councils deliver on their responsibilities.“I hope that both councils can see sense and be prepared to change this unacceptable position.”