Conservative and Labour MPs yesterday raised concerns about the government's approach to addressing pay owed to sleep-in shift workers.
Labour’s shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, called on the government to help fund disability charities’ estimated up to £400m back-pay bill in its upcoming Budget.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday during buisness minister's question time, Long-Bailey criticised the government’s scheme to tackle the issue, which it launched last week, saying it fails to address providers’ funding issues.
The government’s voluntary Social Care Compliance Scheme, which has been criticised by charities and other sectors, requires organisations to assess their own back-pay liability and repay sleep-in shift workers who have historically been paid below the minimum wage by March 2019.
Long-Bailey said this scheme “does not address the fact that many providers simply cannot afford to pay due to funding cuts, and some workers will not be paid what they are duly owed until 31 March 2019”.
She quoted concerns from some in the sector including Mencap, which said that smaller providers would be reluctant to take part in the scheme for fear that they would be “writing their own suicide note”.
“Therefore, I ask the secretary of state: will the government commit the necessary funding in the Budget to avert a crisis in the care sector, which could see many businesses struggle to survive, impacting on already fragile care services, and leave thousands of care staff without the wages they are owed?” she said.
Govt. must avert a crisis in the care sector, and provide necessary funding to deal with the "inadequate" social care back payments scheme pic.twitter.com/RMA8EVpyHx— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) 7 November 2017
In response, business secretary Greg Clark said it was a “difficult and complex issue”.
He said: “We completely accept the need for confidence among the providers of care to some of the most vulnerable people in society, while recognising the legitimate claim, which has been upheld by the courts, of those who have worked in that sector.
“Bringing those two things together requires precision and care, so that this is robust and does not create further uncertainty if it were found not to be legally possible to advance it. That is why the interim proposal has been made.”
Conservative MPs voice concerns
In an earlier debate about social care in the Commons yesterday, some Conservative MPs also voiced their concerns about the government’s scheme.
Peter Aldous, MP for Waveney, said: “The government’s new interim compliance scheme, announced last week, unfortunately adds to the uncertainty facing the social care sector.
“May I urge the minister to do all she can to ensure that, as quickly as possible, the government get back round the table with the sector to find an acceptable long-term solution?”
Kevin Hollinrake also voiced concerns and suggested that the government should revisit the legislation.
In response, business minister Margot James said: “We are working very hard across government with the Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government to continue our discussions with the Treasury about possible solutions to the long-term viability of certain providers.”
'Difficult and complex issue'
On Twitter, Learning Disability Voices, a charity membership body, said Clark’s comments showed the “complexities that government properly funding social care sector would solve”.
“We agree that carers deserve the back-pay they are owed. Our concern is affording the unplanned-for bill and protecting future of the care sector,” it said.