At its meeting today (Thursday 13 June) Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has agreed new fees to care providers who provide sleep-in support services.
The council currently supports around 1,000 adults with disabilities to live independently in supported living schemes. These services are run by external care providers and cost the authority more than £70m each year.
Sleep-in support is offered to some adults who use these services and may occasionally need assistance during the night. Service users who need regular care are served by a different scheme where staff are always awake.
An on-site worker provides sleep-in support and is paid a flat-rate fee for the night, plus an additional hourly rate for time they spend actually working. The county council spends more than £13m on sleep-in services.
In 2015 an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled that the carers should be paid the national Minimum Wage for the whole shift, even when they were asleep. This was potentially financially disastrous for service providers and local authorities. Mencap, the service provider in the original case, appealed to the Court of Appeal who overturned the EAT judgment. Following the decision 13 July 2018, the county council decided to re-introduce flat rates for sleep-in workers to cover the time when they were asleep, rather than paying them the national minimum wage.
The council asked for a meeting with service providers to discuss the matter, but only nine of the 61 providers attended, so the views of the majority were not made available to the council.
At its meeting on 3 December last year, cabinet made an initial proposal to introduce a new flat rate to care providers of £47.30 per sleep in shift to cover their staffing costs. This would allow providers to pay staff £36.08 per shift to cover the time they are asleep.
After the meeting, representations were made by service providers and the cabinet agreed to a full consultation with care providers on the proposal. That consultation took place earlier this year.
Today’s decision, which addresses issues raised in the consultation, means the county council will now pay providers the increased rate of £61.18 to cover staffing costs. This means they can pay their staff £45 per shift to cover the time they are asleep.
Today’s decision means that:
• The new rate of £61.18 for providers will be introduced from 1 October 2019.
• There will be a ‘phasing-in period’ of six months to allow time for providers to transition to new terms and conditions, and change from the old living wage payment to the new sleep-in flat rate.
• Providers will be paid £74.78 to cover staff costs, including payments to staff of £55 per shift during this phasing in period.
• The amount that sleep-in workers are paid per hour when they are awake is unaffected by this proposal.
County Councillor Graham Gooch, cabinet member for adult services, said: “The county council decided to review its position in light of the Court of Appeal ruling.
“In agreement with the service providers, the council decided to return to a flat rate payment as opposed to an hourly rate, to cover the whole shift. They will receive an additional payment for the time they are actually working.
“We made an initial proposal for a flat rate in December, but after very careful consideration of the consultation, we’ve increased the amount we will pay providers to £61.18 per shift.
“We’ve also decided to support providers with a phasing-in period to give them time to bring in new terms and conditions and adapt to the new rate.
“Following the decision by the Court of Appeal, we think it’s important to move away from paying the national minimum wage for time spent asleep, so we can focus our resources on other support services for vulnerable people.
“However, we also have an important role in supporting the care market and feel the new rate, which allows providers to pay their staff £45 per sleep-in shift, ensures there will still be adequate payment for staff doing sleep-ins.”
To read the report relating to today’s decision, and see minutes from the meeting and webcast footage when they go live, search for agenda item 13 at council.lancashire.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=122&MId=9430 our cabinet page.