#SolveSleepIns campaign to secure the future of overnight support
What is the #SolveSleepIns campaign?
Social care faces an unexpected £400m bill following changes to government guidance that mean sleep-in staff must be paid the minimum wage.
This has happened because the government funds overnight care for people who need support, but it has not fully funded sleep-in provision at the minimum wage. As a result, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is pursuing social care providers for six years worth of this back pay. This £400m bill is a cost that providers never anticipated.
It is the government’s role to fund social care for people who need overnight care and cannot pay for support themselves. The moral and legal responsibility to fund the back pay for historic sleep-in shifts therefore also rests with the government.
VODG is working with the #SolveSleepIns Alliance on answers to this challenge, demanding that the government meet the retrospective bill for overnight support. The alliance consists of organisations that represent care providers and people who use services and their families. The alliance includes the Association for Real Change, Care England, Learning Disability England, Learning Disability Voices and VODG.
The unexpected £400m bill for sleep-in costs will undermine the ability of care organisations to provide services for people who need support.
Why should #SolveSleepIns matter to people who use social care and to care providers?
The unexpected bill comes amid an existing financial crisis in social care, with year on year adult social care cuts since 2010 totalling £6.3 billion, and more savings planned. In an already underfunded sector, the unexpected back pay cost will impact on services for those who rely on essential overnight support
The sleep-in workforce does a crucial job and deserves to be paid fairly – the government must accept its responsibility, fund the back pay and to guarantee sufficient funding for future services.
In the absence of a solution, continued uncertainty is affecting services. Without funding to meet the bill, the risk is that some providers will be forced to reduce or withdraw the support they deliver.
The sleep-in payments crisis is having a profound impact on social care organisations that provide overnight support for disabled people.
Simply put, the social care sector for disabled people who rely on this overnight service will quickly become unviable without immediate government action.
What has led to the need to #SolveSleepIns?
Sometimes people have clinical needs that mean they require overnight support to stay safe and well. Sleep-in shifts are an integral part of public service contracts and the government has a statutory obligation to provide them when people are assessed as needing them.
But while the government funds overnight support for people who need it, it has not fully funded sleep-ins at the national minimum (or living) wage for the last six years. National minimum wage legislation from 1999 stated that sleep-in shifts were not subject to the national minimum wage. Then in 2015, the government published guidance that suggested sleep-ins could be subject to minimum wage legislation. It later admitted this guidance was misleading.
Under funding and changes to minimum wage stems entirely from government’s mistaken guidance. Despite the fact that the government guidance was unclear, HMRC is pursuing providers for up to six years of back pay, estimated at a total of £400m.
The government has so far not made any commitment, even in principle, to provide full funding for any back pay costs incurred by providers in relation to sleep-ins.
What is the solution from the #SolveSleepIns Alliance?
This is an issue VODG has been campaigning on since 2014. We have been in dialogue with the government for many years to find a solution.
The collective aim of the alliance is to work with government to solve the sleep-in crisis so that:
- people who rely on sleep-in services continue to receive support
- the overnight workforce gets the good rates of pay it deserves for the work it does
- the care providers delivering these vital community services are assured that they can continue to develop high-quality overnight support
Alliance representatives have met with the Cabinet Office, Department of Health and Social Care, Department for Community and Local Government, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HMRC – yet the situation still lacks a resolution.
Government would have funded sleep-ins at the minimum wage rate had their guidance been correct. The social care sector should not – and cannot afford to – fund this service on behalf of government. Plus, government giving money directly to workers is a more efficient way to ensure these workers get the back pay they are owed.
The #SolveSleepIns Alliance solution is that government should pay the six years of back pay entitled to care workers affected directly.