Social care charity Alternative Futures Group has told MPs that 500 of its overnight workers could lose their jobs after a local authority voted to cut funding.
Lancashire County Council has become one of the first local authorities in England to cut social care providers’ funding for overnight workers. A legal ruling last year means employers are able to pay a flat rate overnight workers and not full minimum wage under the assumption that they will spend most of the time asleep.
Last year the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Mencap, agreeing that sleep-in shift workers were not entitled to the full minimum wage.
Previous hearings for the Mencap case in 2016 and 2017 had ruled that sleep-in shift workers should be entitled to the full minimum wage instead of the lower flat rate fee that most received for a night shift.
These previous rulings led to many local authorities increasing their funding for social care charities to pay their sleep-in shift workers top-up fees in line with the minimum wage.
However, after the Court of Appeal overturned these rulings, the council proposed cutting pay for sleep-in shift workers from an average of £67 per nine-hour overnight shift to just £45, below the minimum wage.
This month, following a consultation with care providers, the council’s cabinet members agreed that providers will be paid just over £61 per shift from October, on the basis that £45 of it goes to the care worker.
A top-up payment will be made until March 2020, meaning that staff will receive £55 per shift until then.
The council expects the changes will save it £1.4m during the transition year and £3.4m a year from 2020 onwards.
Civil Society New has contacted the council for further comment.
‘Over 500 jobs at risk’
The Alternative Futures Group charity, one of the large social care providers in Lancashire, said it was “deeply disappointed” and that council’s decision put its workers’ jobs at risk.
In recent months, the charity’s overnight care staff have already taken part in a series of strikes after it told them it would have to stop paying top-up fees.
Writing to Lancashire MPs after the council’s decision, chief executive Ian Pritchard said: “This is deeply disappointing for both the 1,000 Lancashire residents with a learning disability, who receive care at night, and more importantly for the pay of the dedicated support workers who tirelessly provide this support to them at night.
“By its own admission, this would put LCC at the bottom of the league table of fees paid by all NW local authorities. It would also make it one of the first local authorities in England to reduce sleep-in fees following the court of appeal decision on sleep-ins in July 2018.
“The decision, follows a formal consultation by LCC into the proposed reduction of pay with service providers, including Alternative Futures Group which is one of the largest providers in the county.
“During this consultation, we repeatedly stressed, in common with other service providers, that this proposed cut would increasingly make the provision of care services unsustainable to the point that they would need to be handed back.
“This would be disastrous for the vulnerable people we care for and put at risk the jobs of over 500 Lancashire-based support workers.”
According to the charity’s latest accounts it has about 2,500 employees overall.
The Mencap ruling could be overturned again when the case is heard in the Supreme Court in February next year.