Learning disability charities Mencap and United Response have today led calls for the government to intervene and stop the HMRC from pursuing £400 million in backdated sleep in pay.
Care providers have paid staff for sleep-ins at a flat-rate for decades. However, various employment tribunals and appeals prompted a recent change in guidance issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Sleep-ins are now classified as working time, requiring the hourly national living wage to be paid.
The sector has been left with a bill of £400 million to cover the last six years and providers will collectively have to cover an additional £200 million a year in wage bills going forwards.
Mencap chairman Derek Lewis said: “There will be a major impact on the 5,500 people we support and some may even end up losing that support all together.”
“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,” Mr Lewis 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% of carers slept peacefully.”
“It is time for Government to give a public undertaking to fund back-pay should the Court of Appeal uphold the Tribunal Decision.
“High politics, Brexit or the Parliamentary Recess must not be allowed to get in the way. The future of some of the most vulnerable in our society needs to be protected.”
United Response are behind the campaign, saying: “We are calling on the Government to show strong leadership to protect services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”
United Response say three straightforward measures will provide the security that is needed: end HMRC enforcement action; Government to meet back pay liabilities; Government to provide clarification and guidance of meeting costs moving forward.
The Local Government Association said: “The current uncertainty is causing worry for care workers, the people they care for and their families. It risks care providers going bust, contracts being handed back to councils and care workers being made unemployed.”
“People who pay for their own care or employ a personal assistant could also be forced to meet back-pay claims.”
“Councils face a £2.3 billion annual social care funding gap by 2020. If the Government decides the National Living Wage or a new rate should apply for sleep-ins, it must provide councils with genuinely new money to cover the cost.”
“Individuals paying for their own care and hard working families who face the risk of having to pay back benefits they have received over the past six years will also need to be protected.”
Debate set to intensify
Learning Disability Voices, the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group and Care England have today supported calls from Mencap to clarify rules on overnight care sector ‘sleep-in’ shifts.
Earlier this month Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament government were “looking carefully” at the issue.