Demand for urgent government action on sleep in crisis

Essential overnight social care support services are at risk because of government inaction over sleep-in payments, according to an open letter to ministers published today.

The letter signed by care, health and education organisations urges the government to clarify how sleep-ins should be remunerated.

A recent court of appeal judgment overturned a previous decision that would have resulted in sleep-in staff being paid minimum wage for shifts, leading to a £400m back pay bill for care providers. However, Unison has now lodged an appeal against the most recent ruling, creating renewed uncertainty for employers over retrospective and ongoing costs.

Without clear information on the long-running sleep-in payments saga, the letter warns, commissioners and providers may move in ad hoc ways, something that would threaten the provision of a vital night time service. The ongoing lack of clarity affects not only care provider organisations, but individuals using personal budgets or direct payments to employ and manage support staff.

The letter also stresses the existing fragility of the social care market, with adult social care facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing levels of provision.

The letter urges the government to:

  • clarify its position on sleep-in payments
  • confirm that the current legal position means employers will not face potential HMRC retrospective action to recover underpayment of national minimum wage for sleep in work
  • work with organisations to produce information so that people who use services and their families, the workforce, employers and commissioners understand how sleep-ins should be remunerated
  • work with providers and local government on a sustainable funding solution that will ensure care workers are valued and fairly paid.

Steve Scown, chair of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said:

“We have lobbied government for several years to solve the long-running sleep-in crisis and repeatedly offered to work collaboratively, but our pleas have been largely ignored. The government’s reluctance to issue clear and detailed guidance exacerbates the genuine and widespread concerns that already exist among provider organisations and people supported. Hard working staff also deserve to have the sleep-ins saga solved because a strong and confident workforce is vital if support services are to properly respond to the needs of individuals, families, carers and communities.”

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:

“The Government needs to provide urgent clarity on sleep-in payments to address continuing uncertainty in the market and widespread anxiety for people using care services, their family and friends, the care workforce and the providers they work for. The Government must also confirm that employers won’t face retrospective action and if the Court of Appeal decision is overturned they must provide the money to deal with those costs.”

“We fully support care workers being paid fairly for the work they do and we urge government to fund the cost of sleep-in payments with genuinely new money, to prevent more care providers going out of business, contracts being handed back to councils, care workers losing their jobs and less investment in prevention.”

“This issue is symptomatic of wider pressures and adult social care is at a clear tipping point. The government must use its upcoming Budget to inject genuinely new additional funding to secure the short-term sustainability of adult social care. Without this, the consequences of underfunding we have seen to date will continue to bite, including an ever-more fragile provider market and growing strain on the care workforce and unpaid carers. This will impact on the wellbeing and outcomes of those who rely on social care, and will reduce the ability of social care to mitigate demand pressures on the NHS.”

Notes for editors

The letter is signed by the infrastructure organisations that support social care providers, education services and charitable organisations alongside the Local Government Association.

The letter prepared for the Ministers can be accessed here.