The good, the bad and the ugly

Breaking news, you may be glad to see this blog doesn’t contain any reference to Brexit!

This fortnight has been full of activity in the sector one way or another and I thought ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ sums it up.

The Good
The Department of Health and Social Care have launched the ‘Everyday Is Different’ campaign, aiming at promoting social care as a career, offering development and progression. The new sparkly website offers users an opportunity to learn more about the sector and the roles within it, case stories and a link to a job searching page. All good stuff. I’m not convinced this is the answer to our prayers when it comes to attracting staff to bridge the massive vacancies (over 100, 000) the sector carries at any one time, but it’s a start. For me it indicates a shift in thinking and acknowledgement that the recruitment and retention problem is not going away anytime soon, and action needs to be taken as the demand for Care and Support staff continues to grow. I hope the Government along with this, understand that raising the profile and credibility of the sector is critical.

The Bad
This week, the Supreme Court granted permission to appeal Mencap’s Sleep-in case. This opens up a world of uncertainty for providers once again, in respect of whether time asleep is classed as working time for National Minimum Wage purposes or not. The Court of Appeal ruled that the National Minimum Wage should only apply when a worker is awake and working, on 13th July last year but, their Lordships will be considering if this should be the case. The case itself won’t be resolved until the latter part of the year as we have been advised it will not be heard until after October this year.

Although, this does bring uncertainty in the meantime and is not totally unexpected, it will lead to certainty. Once that decision is handed down providers, staff, Local Authorities and the Government will ‘know the score’ and this long-standing issue can hopefully be put to bed after all, if you pardon the pun!

Between now and the appeal, providers really need to think about their position. We know a number of providers have continued to pay staff minimum wage for any hours (or use top ups to reach that level), whether sleep in shifts or not, but some have renegotiated staff terms when the rate from the Local Authority has made doing so the only option. The appeal leaves either option questionable in terms of the potential requirements of law come D-Day.

The Ugly
The Mental Capacity (Amendment) Bill was passed in the House of Commons, at the third reading, by a small majority – 299 to 241 despite the opposition against it. We signed an open letter, along with a number of our members and sector colleagues, outlining the threat to human rights of passing the bill in its current form. There have been poor attempts at consultation with the sector, it has been tokenistic at best and the issues that have been flagged have simply not be resolved. It’s now over to the House of Lords who will be looking at the final version of the bill on 26th February.

It is an appalling shame that there was an opportunity to get the replacement system for the DOLS system right that has not been taken, and now it is down to the House of Lords to step in and push back on the bill. And so we wait.

 

You will find more detail on all of these stories in the Top Stories section of Real People.

 

Kind regards
Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director

15 February 2019