Government risks care sector collapse over sleep-in shifts, warn providers

Three care organisations – 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.

These arrangements are delivered regularly for people with learning disabilities requiring round the clock care. Carers sleep through the night but are present on site to respond to emergency requests for care and support.

For years these shifts have been paid at a flat rate of £35-45, with workers receiving National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage, for the hours they spend providing care.

However Government guidance on the NLW’s application to sleep-ins has recently changed, prompted by Employment Tribunals. The Court of Appeal will now consider the re-interpretation of the law next year.

This has left providers liable for up to six years of back payments, which is actively being pursued by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Sector-wide liabilities could amount to £400 million, at conservative estimates.

The three bodies representing providers in the sector have called on the Government to immediately suspend HMRC’s enforcement activity until the law is clarified, and publicly fund back pay liabilities if the Court of Appeal upholds the re-interpretation.

Andrew Cannon, co-chair of Learning Disability Voices and chief executive of Voyage Care, said:

“Our sector is currently facing a funding crisis and Government inaction over sleep-ins could be catastrophic. Services relied on by some of the most vulnerable people in society are at risk and will potentially fail unless the Government swiftly applies a solution.”

Tim Cooper, co-chair of Learning Disability Voices and chief executive of United Response, said:

“At a stroke the Government can provide breathing space for organisations in the sector by temporarily halting enforcement activity over sleep-in back pay liabilities. We currently lack time and clarity, so this requires an immediate response from ministers.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, said:

“The lack of clarity over sleep-ins is an enormous challenge facing providers across the country. The Government’s recovery of sleep-ins must be suspended immediately, with a clear and definitive position on back payments put forward.”

Dr Rhidian Hughes, chief executive at VODG, said:

“Like our colleagues across the sector we have welcomed the National Living Wage and have fully supported its implementation. However, the sector is now approaching a crunch over sleep-ins and we urgently require Government to clarify its position.”