Poverty Wages revisited

On 28 August 2013, the Daily Telegraph published a piece under the headline: Home carers being paid illegal poverty wages – study.
Essentially it reported on a study undertaken by the Resolution Foundation which showed that even where care workers are paid the minimum wage, they often actually earn much less because travel time between visits and travel costs incurred for travel between visits is not counted/reimbursed.
I shared this story on my Facebook page and encouraged everyone to: contact our local authorities and ask them some searching questions.
I promised that I would be writing to one of my local Councilors today. The questions I wanted to put were:
1 Does the local authority insist that care workers employed by contractors receive the minimum wage and are paid for travel time between visits and travel costs incurred?
2 If not, why not?
3 What proportion of home care to both older and disabled people is provided by contractors and what proportion by in-house staff?
4 On what basis are in-house staff paid?
5 Do the managers who supervise the care service/manage the contracts for the local authority get paid for travel expenses incurred and is their work related travel time done in work time?
6 Is the local authority considering imposing a requirement to pay a living wage?
I wrote the very same day and on 17 September 2013 I received a response. I haven’t heard from anyone else receiving responses to these questions from their local authorities. But it’s not too late to write and ask.
So for now, here are the responses I got from my Council (underlining has been added by me for emphasis):
1 Does the local authority insist that care workers employed by contractors receive the minimum wage and are paid for travel time between visits and travel costs incurred?
All contractors commissioned by the Council are required to pay at least the minimum wage. In terms of care workers being paid for travel time and travel costs, this varies by care agency. For example, some care agencies pay a monthly travel allowance, whilst others pay travel time based on the care worker’s rota.
2 If not, why not?
As above
3 What proportion of home care to both older and disabled people is provided by contractors and what proportion by in-house staff?
The Council no longer directly provides a home care service, which closed at the end of March 2012. The Council provides a short-term (six weeks maximum) intensive reablement service, post hospital discharge.
4 On what basis are in-house staff paid?
Staff in the reablement service are all permanently employed by the Council, on 30 hours/week contracts with full access to the Council pension scheme and conditions of employment. Payment for travel time is included and travel time between service users is factored into their work rotas.
5 Do the managers who supervise the care service/manage the contracts for the local authority get paid for travel expenses incurred and is their work related travel time done in work time?
Yes
6 Is the local authority considering imposing a requirement to pay a living wage?
The Council plans on consulting on its Procurement Strategy in the near future.
No surprises in this response. I will, of course, keep my eye on the consultation about the Procurement Strategy.
Why is any of this important? First, if the people who care for the most vulnerable members of our communities do not get paid a decent wage for all the work they do (including the time they spend going from one client to the next) and do not get reimbursed for legitimate travel expenses then we will not attract the best people into such jobs. And who loses? All of us! And second, if we don’t participate in the debate, by asking the questions or contributing to consultations about Council policy on these matters, we won’t be in a position to change anything. All that will happen is that private contractors will make more profit at the expense of their workers, their clients and the tax-payer. It’s up to us to change this.

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About martinaweitsch

I'm interested in politics and rational political debate which isn't afraid of the facts or the complexities and contradictions inherent in most important issues.
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