Social care leader slams council for “hypocrisy” over pay rates

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Mary Wimbury, Care Forum North Wales.

A “hypocritical” county council pays its own staff £1,700 more a year than they are willing to shell out for carers doing the exactly the same work in privately-run care homes.

Care Forum Wales (CFW), which represents nearly 500 independent providers, criticised Gwynedd County Council after the “derisory” fee levels announced by Gwynedd County Council for the coming year.

CFW chief executive Mary Wimbury said it was an insult to the army of courageous care workers who had put their own lives on the line to protect their vulnerable residents during the pandemic.

In Wales, pay rates for carers are effectively determined by local councils who set the level of fees care homes and domiciliary care companies receive.

Gwynedd, along with many other authorities and health boards, use a formula which calculates how much they want to allocate towards all care home costs, including what staff are paid.

As a result, say Care Forum Wales, wage levels have been unfairly suppressed by the local authorities who have managed the budgets for 25 years.

In contrast carers working in council-owned homes in Gwynedd are paid considerably more.

The formula means that private care homes have been only allocated enough money to pay half their staff £8.72 an hour, going up to £8.91 next year, while the other half are on a slightly higher rate of £10.21.

Meanwhile, the lowest rate for working days in a council-run care home is £9.62 and hour and £9.81 an hour for nights.

That means that the council’s care staff receive £1,731 a year more than their counterparts in the private sector for a 37-hour week.

Last year Gwynedd Council was named and shamed as one of the “meanest”  local authorities in Wales when it comes to paying care home fees.

An investigation by Care Forum Wales revealed they were in the bottom 10 of the “league table of shame”.

It prompted the organisation to launch a campaign to ensure qualified staff who work in care homes and domiciliary care in Wales are paid a minimum of £20,000 a year.

According to Care Forum Wales, the valiant response of care workers in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic had highlighted their true value and it was high time it was recognised by the authorities who commissioned publicly funded social care.

It was, she said, a “national disgrace” that the 2020 Fair Pay campaign was necessary and it was “bitterly disappointing” that Gwynedd County Council had chosen to ignore it.

The evidence on fees had also highlighted a clear North-South divide.

Ms Wimbury said: “Five of the bottom 10 payers in Wales are North Wales councils whilst the highest rates are to be found in South East Wales.

“To illustrate the point care homes in somewhere like Barry receive £6,600 a year per resident than a home in Bethesda – for a home with 40 residents that’s a massive £264,000 a year.

“The newly-announced fees have done nothing to redress the balance and give care homes in North Wales a fair crack of the whip.

“In fact, the new rates are derisory and a slap in the face for our frontline heroes who have risen magnificently to the challenge of caring for their beloved residents over the past year.

“Gwynedd County Council  also charge higher fees for their own homes than they pay to independent homes.

“To put things into perspective the UK Government are charging returnees £175 a night to quarantine in hotels – which clearly does not include the cost of care.

“That works out at £1,225 a week which is nearly double the fee for the most acute level of need in Gwynedd for people needing EMI nursing care.

“This is an unforgiveable insult to all the heroic people who have been on the front line throughout the coronavirus. It’s nothing less than shocking.

“At the same time, care providers are facing a double whammy of soaring costs and falling income. Everything has gone up in price with 50 per cent increases in insurance not uncommon, for less protection and no cover for Covid-related claims.

“Instead of clapping for carers Gwynedd Council are slapping them in the face  condemning them to live on low wages which is an absolute scandal.

“They should be treated as national treasures for showing tremendous courage as well as skill and dedication in the face of this frightening  disease during a global pandemic.

“And then to add insult to injury they pay their own employees working in care homes at a much higher rate. They deserve so much more.

“Effectively, county councils like Gwynedd have decided that social care workers in the independent sector are not worth even the Real Living wage of £9.50p per hour let alone the £10.00  Care Forum Wales is campaigning for to create a sustainably social care workforce that is fit to meet the challenges of the future.  

“We cannot just stand and accept that a local authority with a budget of hundreds of millions of pounds and a statutory responsibility for social care can apply dual standards – for those you work for the council and those who don’t.

“Quite frankly the public need to know and councils need to stop blaming providers for poor terms and conditions when they themselves set the financial rules. It’s sheer, unashamed hypocrisy.”

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Mary Wimbury, Care Forum North Wales.

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