As a supported housing consultant the last thing you would expect me to say to the above headline that appeared yesterday in The Independent is good riddance to Mencap et al yet that is precisely what I do say! Ship up or ship out Mencap!
The article is a disgraceful polemic from the ‘professional’ disability supported accommodation sector and is replete with errors of fact and emotive bullshit in its 16 sentences that I have attached at the end of this post.
The article claims this is about overnight care when it is not. It is about one simple issue in ‘sleep-in’ payments for staff in supported housing, supported living and care environments.
It is about Mencap et al wanting to pay their staff the princely sum of £3.63 per hour and not the national minimum wage of £7.50 per hour – end of – and the article is a disgraceful polemic that reveals how Mencap et al have been paying their staff just 48% of the national minimum wage and getting away with it for 23 years. This issue was first raised back in 1993 when the EU Working Time Directive was first announced that became law in 1998 – the same Directive which outlawed the 48 hour working week by imposition.
A sleep-in shift is a fundamentally different issue to the on-call type of arrangement that the Independent gets so fundamentally wrong in this error strewn polemic in one critically aspect – a sleep-in mandates that the worker is on the employers site and that is the absolute key distinction.
Before the Working Time Directive became UK law the Conservative Prime Minister John Major negotiated a 7-year UK opt-out for the sleep-in shift on the spurious basis that the worker was passively on duty and not actively on duty. Yet the worker had to be at the employer site and not be at home. While an argument can be made for an on-call arrangement to be viewed as passively on duty, there is no sound basis to say that a worker having to sleep at the workplace is passively on duty!
For reasons unknown this initial 7 year opt-out from 1998 to 2005 has continued right up to today with a Tribunal legal ruling in 2015 and a subsequent failed appeal against that legal ruling by Mencap. The UK courts have decided at a high level that the sleep-in shift passively on duty argument which allowed Mencap et al to pay their workers 48% of the national minimum wage was a groundless legal fiction, and rightly so!
What does it say about the morality of the ‘professional’ disability charities (and all other supported housing and supported living providers) when they think that vulnerable people only deserve to be looked after by staff who are paid just £3.63 per hour?
These organisations are feckless in terms of challenging all governments when it comes to the support and care needs of vulnerable people. They are vastly more concerned with their bottom lines and what they can get away with in terms of paying their workers peanuts at less than half the national minimum wage.
For far too long support and care providers have acquiesced to the chronic underfunding of central and local government for all vulnerable client groups and have become complicit in this by their apathy and lack of challenge and their ‘that’s all the money there is do the best you can with it’ feckless strategy. Vulnerable people deserve so much better.
Support and care providers, large and small, have become peanut accepters instead of advocates for vulnerable people and that has to stop. This ruling has always been inevitable given the fiction of passively on duty as its only defence and the UK Tribunal ruling should be commended not attacked as Mencap do in this error-strewn polemic that shames the Independent too.
Yet what we have here is an employer saying it is outrageous to have pay the minimum wage to its workers and they cite some very deceitful comments in support of that such as “…99.7% of carers slept peacefully” in sentence 7 below while this ‘sleep-in’ arrangement has also been forced onto many much more chaotic supported housing environments such as homeless hostels, probation and ex-offender hostels and where workers ho are paid this pittance regularly are disturbed during the night.
Lower cost provision of support and care has been thrust upon the entire supported housing sector even the most chaotic client groups by funders and they have been in large part allowed to do this by the apathy of the larger providers such as Mencap to fight for what vulnerable people deserve.
One reason I was so vitriolic against the ridiculous Housing First service proposed and generally lauded for the Liverpool City Region last week was the £34 per hour median cost of its provision. Many supported housing services in LCR get half that funding of support per hour and domiciliary care providers get less than £15 per hour!
Enough is enough and larger providers such as Mencap really do need to radically rethink their raison d’etre when they choose to say they want to pay their workers less than half the national minimum wage rather than we have had 24 years of chronic underfunding which has been far less than vulnerable people deserve.
This taking commercial realities position is nothing but excuse by Mencap et al and has gone way too far and lasted far too long. When you then put this in the context of the perceived undeserving rough sleeper client group can see support for its providers being paid £34 per hour of support yet Mencap et al NOT making a case for asking for more than the £13 – £18 per hour they typically receive for the support and care needs of the perceived deserving disabled client groups you begin to see just how complicit and apathetic these ‘professional’ support and care providers have become.
Shame on you Mencap!
The Mencap polemic from the Independent is below in all its ignominious glory!
Dozens of leading charities could face insolvency within weeks after the Government ruled they must pay millions of pounds in back payments to overnight carers.
Around 200 disability charities, including Mencap, are said to face a bill of around £400m in back payments after new guidance was issued stating overnight carers must be paid the national minimum wage (NMW) for all hours.
Vulnerable people with learning difficulties face losing “vital” care as a result of the bills, charities have warned, with around 5,500 supported by Mencap alone set to be “majorly impacted”, while some may end up losing that support all together.
Under guidance issued by the Government in 1999, when the minimum wage was introduced, disability charities, which sent a carer overnight to look after someone with learning difficulties, were required to pay a flat rate “on call” allowance of £25 or £35 to cover the period when they were asleep.
But, following two tribunal cases in 2015 and last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) changed the guidance in October to state that these organisations must now pay the minimum wage throughout the shift, meaning overnight carers would earn £60 for eight hours of sleep.
Mencap and other charities and companies are now warning that they cannot afford the huge and unexpected additional sums being demanded by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), even though they believe their staff should get the higher pay levels demanded by the business department.
Derek Lewis, chairman of the Royal Mencap Society, said “sleep-ins”, which are widely used in the sector, rarely see the carer disturbed during the night, citing research showing that 99.7 per cent of them slept peacefully.
“Sleep-ins are widely used in the learning disability sector to provide care for some of our most vulnerable adults, in their own homes in the communities they live in,” he said.
“The carer is only there ‘just in case’ to provide safety and reassurance and is rarely disturbed. Recent research which looked at the last three years showed that 99.7 per cent of carers slept peacefully.
“The unintended consequences have been disastrous as HMRC have begun enforcement action demanding six years’ back pay. Estimates of the costs to the Learning Disability sector are in the region of £400m and Royal Mencap Society will be severely affected.”
Mr Lewis added that “high politics, Brexit or the Parliamentary Recess” appeared to be “getting in the way” of talks between charities and the Government about the issue.
The national minimum wage for those aged 25 and over is £7.50 an hour, which will increase to £9 by 2020.
About 178,000 people with learning difficulties may lose their assistance at home because of changes to pay rates for 24-hour care, with one large provider ordered to come up with six years’ back pay by September, said Mr Lewis.
He added: “For many smaller care providers across the country, the financial impact will be devastating. The resulting multiple insolvencies will be more serious than Southern Cross because there will be no alternative providers available, as local authorities are already finding. We know that the Care Quality Commission is very concerned.”
Jan Tregelles, chief executive of Royal Mencap Society, said: “We all recognise that our social care colleagues do some outstanding work and are some of the lowest paid, but we cannot pay them if we do not have the money and we only receive money from government sources.
“For someone with serious learning disabilities, having someone stay overnight ‘at home’ makes the vital difference between ‘living a life’ and spending the rest of their life in a hospital setting.