Demand for urgent government action on sleep in crisis

Essential overnight social care support services are at risk because of government inaction over sleep-in payments, according to an open letter to ministers published today.

The letter signed by care, health and education organisations urges the government to clarify how sleep-ins should be remunerated.

A recent court of appeal judgment overturned a previous decision that would have resulted in sleep-in staff being paid minimum wage for shifts, leading to a £400m back pay bill for care providers. However, Unison has now lodged an appeal against the most recent ruling, creating renewed uncertainty for employers over retrospective and ongoing costs.

Without clear information on the long-running sleep-in payments saga, the letter warns, commissioners and providers may move in ad hoc ways, something that would threaten the provision of a vital night time service. The ongoing lack of clarity affects not only care provider organisations, but individuals using personal budgets or direct payments to employ and manage support staff.

The letter also stresses the existing fragility of the social care market, with adult social care facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing levels of provision.

The letter urges the government to:

  • clarify its position on sleep-in payments
  • confirm that the current legal position means employers will not face potential HMRC retrospective action to recover underpayment of national minimum wage for sleep in work
  • work with organisations to produce information so that people who use services and their families, the workforce, employers and commissioners understand how sleep-ins should be remunerated
  • work with providers and local government on a sustainable funding solution that will ensure care workers are valued and fairly paid.

We know this issue matters to all of our members as they want support workers to be recognised for the valuable job they do and the funding levels to reflect that. It is particularly a worry for the staff affected and for employers who manage their own staff through personal budgets. Learning Disability England are in touch with people who help manage their family members manage their personal budget. This on going uncertainty is threatening the stability of their support teams as one person told us how concerned they are their daughter’s social care will be cut if the Council thinks lower rates can be paid for sleep ins as this will put us at risk of losing long standing staff some of which have worked for her daughter for 8 years.

We hope the government will act to make this clearer and fairer for the people supported, the staff themselves and the organisations employing support workers.

The letter prepared for the Ministers can be accessed here

Please click here for a response from Kelly Tolhurst