Learning disability providers hand back contracts due to increased costs

12 Feb 2019 News

Learning disability care providers are handing back contracts due to rising cost pressures, according to a new report.

The report by learning disability charity Hft surveyed 56 chief executives and senior managers in the care sector and found that 33 had closed down some parts of their organisation or handed back contracts and services to local authorities in the past year.

Some 20 respondents had shed staff in the previous year while the same amount had reduced the scope of the services they provide.

Looking forward, 38 respondents said they envisaged handing back contracts in the near future if their financial situation does not improve.

The vast majority of respondents said the main cost pressure they faced was from rising wage bills.

Most providers said increased costs for sub-contractors or agency workers were a main cost pressure while a third of respondents also named rising utility bills.

Billy Davis, public affairs and policy manager at Hft, said: “It is deeply worrying, if not surprising, that our report concludes that, for the first time, providers are warning that it will not be long before these financial pressures may soon start to be felt by those vulnerable adults supported by the sector, as disruptions to the continuity of care they receive becomes more commonplace. 

“The underfunding of social care is a national crisis that requires a national solution. With the green paper on social care now long overdue, we call on the government to urgently address the issues facing the sector, before it affects some of the most vulnerable adults in our society.”  

Shortage of workers

Half of respondents said their vacancy rate was between five and 15 per cent of their total workforce, compared to the labour market average of 2.8 per cent.

The majority of respondents said recruitment of staff was a bigger challenge than retention of workers.

Four-fifths of respondents said that low pay had the biggest impact on their recruitment efforts, while most providers also said careers in social care are undervalued compared to working in the NHS.

Almost half of respondents said their use of agency staff over the past year had increased in order to plug their gaps in recruitment.

Meanwhile, a quarter of respondents said they had not even begun to prepare for Brexit, while another third said they were no more prepared than at the same time last year.

'Under real threat'

Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, said: “Local commissioning is not keeping pace with the rising costs of care provision, investment in the sector is being seriously eroded and the sustainability of future services is now under real threat.

“This situation is not fair to the individuals and families who rely on care services, nor the workforce, and government must take steps to immediately shore up the sector.”

Hughes also said providers' lack of preparedness for Brexit was a "major source of concern".

He said: “Brexit exacerbates the threat to social care because the likely economic impact may lead to less public funding and potentially create instability in the sector’s labour market.

“Government needs to step forward and actively plan with the sector to ensure that essential care and support services are not put at risk.”

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