Learning disability charities have accused the government of taking a “punitive approach” to the sleep-in crisis after HM Revenue & Customs’ latest correspondence regarding worker back-pay.
On 1 November, the government announced its voluntary Social Care Compliance Scheme to address pay owed to sleep-in shift workers, estimated to be up to £400m.
Today, umbrella body the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) released a statement saying many of its members have since received “ultimatum” letters from HMRC inviting them to join the scheme.
It says so far all of the letters received give organisations 30 days to decide whether to take part in the scheme, while some “demand a telephone call with the recipient on a fixed date and time”.
The chief executive of a disability charity, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “This appears to be a concerted and planned campaign by government to undermine the sector when a constructive not punitive approach is needed.
“At a time when we need more funding for social care, the sector is instead being hammered by the HRMC intent on taking away resources from the sector. I am concerned and dismayed that our sector is being treated in this way.”
VODG chair Steve Scown said: “There are too many unresolved questions for providers to make an informed decision as to whether to join government’s compliance scheme.
“In the absence of answers, and funding to cover the back pay bill, HMRC’s approach and the timeframe they are imposing is unhelpful to a sector that is at full stretch financially.”
Lack of clarity
VODG, along with fellow umbrella bodies Learning Disability Voices, the Association for Real Change and Care England, has produced a list of questions about the scheme which it believes should be answered before organisations are asked to sign up.
These questions include:
- What is the start date for calculating back pay and what is the justification for this date?
- Will there be any government funding/compensation available to cover the staff involved in carrying out the back pay work?
- Will staff who receive backdated pay have their tax and in work benefits recalculated and have to pay additional tax/repay benefits, accordingly?
- If you choose to opt into the scheme, can you then opt out again at a later date?
It also questions whether participation in the scheme is truly voluntary as the government has said those who do not join could be penalised.
The main call from VODG is for the government to provide funding towards the sector's back-pay bill, which providers including Mencap have been lobbying for over the summer.
An HMRC spokesperson said: “HMRC is engaging with the sector to help providers consider whether they are eligible for the scheme. As part of this we have contacted all social care providers who were already subject to a NMW investigation at the scheme’s launch and where we have received a worker complaint.”