Care sector descends on parliament to urge immediate resolution to sleep-in crisis

Today, Wednesday 27 June, dozens of people with learning disabilities, their families, care workers and representatives of the social care sector will descend on Parliament to meet with MPs and Peers to highlight the growing alarm over the sleep-in back pay crisis.

The lobby is being organised by the #SolveSleepIns Alliance which represents approximately half of all organisations providing vital care services to people with learning disabilities, and other health conditions, that require overnight support.

The sleep-in crisis has resulted from mistaken Government guidance before 2015, and representatives from the care sector have been working tirelessly with Government departments and Ministers for over three years – but despite these efforts, the issue is still not resolved.

The #SolveSleepIns Alliance is now calling on all individual MPs and Peers to raise the issue directly with the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt MP – asking him to immediately propose a solution to the sleep-in crisis.

The wide-ranging impact of the estimated £400 million bill for back pay, due to come into effect later this year, could have disastrous effects on the long-term viability of the sector.

Mary Woodall, who lives at a supported living service ran by CMG and will be attending the lobby of Parliament, said:

“It’s important we have Government funding. We need support and residential care homes to stay open.

I’m worried about who will fund back pay as there could be a loss of control over care. There may not be as much supported living or residential houses still standing depending on what happens with sleep-in staff.

Staff support makes a lot of difference in a young person’s life because it enables them to live independently with the help and support they need.”

Michael Cheshire will also be attending the lobby of Parliament, and also lives at a supported living service. He said:

“Having night staff makes me feel safe. If I feel ill there is someone to get help for me. If there wasn’t any night staff I would have to move out as I wouldn’t be happy.”

Lesley Dixon, chief executive of PSS, said:

“Like the majority of social care providers we’re dealing with being underpaid for our services plus facing the back pay liability as well as a pension liability. As a medium sized provider, we have reserves but those can only go so far, we have to feel assured that we can retain the quality of our services and give security to our hard working staff.

Alongside this backdated liability we’re losing money on every sleep-in we deliver on our current contracts. We’re paying the national living wage to all our support workers but our local authority cannot afford to pay us anymore than 90% of what it costs us to deliver each hour of overnight support.

This combination of a sleep-in liability, pension liability and underfunded current market rates could be the perfect storm for us and many in our sector. We’re 99 years young, we’ve weathered big storms before – surely something that we’ve had no part in bringing about couldn’t be our final chapter.”

Tim Cooper, co-chair of Learning Disability Voices, said:

“It is incomprehensible that for over three years of partnering with the Government and Ministers, we still lack a solution to the sleep-in crisis. This is even harder to swallow when we are presenting the only fair solution to the issue – one that minimises disruption to vital care services for vulnerable people, guarantees that carers receive their back pay and supports all providers of these important community services.

The solution is obvious: the Government must commit to fully funding all sleep-in back pay now.

I welcome the opportunity to meet with Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords on the sleep-in crisis currently threatening our social care sector. I am especially pleased that we will be joined by people who rely on these care services, who themselves will be backed on the day by family members, carers, personal budget holders and representatives of care providers from across England.

I look forward to supporting our diverse group of voices in ensuring they are heard by decision-makers on the effect their policies have on vulnerable people.”

Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group said:

“This is a very real crisis that is today disrupting services for people who rely on essential overnight support. Time is running out and this pressing situation could have been averted had Government recognised before 2015 that workers performing sleep-in shifts needed to legally be paid the National Minimum Wage in their official guidance. These costs could then have been properly planned for and funded. Asking care providers to cover the back pay is not only unfair and unjust, but it is also making it very difficult for some organisations to continue.

The Government needs to do more and must now secure additional funding to settle this matter. We all agree that workers need to be paid at the NMW rate for sleep-in shifts and it is time for Government to step up and fund all back pay now.

After meeting carers, family members and people who rely on these crucial services, I hope that parliamentarians, from all political parties, will join us in calling on the Government to fully fund all sleep in back-pay and end the uncertainty in the sector.”

All MPs, Peers and staffers are invited to drop-in to Committee Room 9 after Prime Minister’s Questions (1pm-3pm) and meet with representatives of the care sector.

​Based on a tribunal ruling, recent changes to Government guidance mean that sleep-in staff who previously earned around £30 per shift must be paid minimum wage, with providers liable for six years’ worth of back pay for such shifts. Government typically provides funding for care services through local authorities who then often contract with providers. However, over the past six years contracts between providers and local authorities have not been based on needing to pay NMW/NLW for sleep-in shifts, nor has Government provided that money to local authorities nor to providers – meaning that providers are now required to fund a liability with money which they have never received. The unexpected bill has been estimated at around £400m for the sector, though may be much higher based on results from a recent sector survey, and comes amid an existing financial crisis in social care.

VODG has supported the Health and Social Care and Housing, Communities and Local Government Committees first report on the long-term funding of adult social care. The committees recognise that backdated pay for sleep-ins also presents an immediate risk to organisations’ financial stability and must be addressed urgently.