Learning disability charity The Royal Mencap Society (Mencap) has again called for the Government to honour its obligation to fund statutory care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
A change in guidance on pay for carers who provide so-called "sleep-in" care could leave some families liable for as much as £50,000 and the learning disability sector with a back-pay bill of £400 million.
The charity said that since 1999, care homes operated under advice that time spent asleep by care staff in residential homes and supported living residences did not count as work time for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
The payment of a flat rate ''on call'' allowance had been the norm across the sector ever since, it said.
Following two employment tribunals, new guidance in October last year recognised that the previous guidance was wrong and the NMW should be paid for sleep time instead.
Now, as the Government’s self-imposed deadline of 2 October approaches, Mencap says the retrospective care costs should be met in full.
Mencap Chairman, Derek Lewis said: "Sleep-in overnight care allows people with serious learning disabilities to live an independent life. Local Authorities decide who needs this essential care and central Government gives them the money to pay for it.
"Last autumn, when Government changed its interpretation of how care staff doing sleep-in shifts should be paid national minimum wage, massive unfunded back-pay liabilities were created that charities and other providers do not have the resources to pay.
"Care Quality Commission reports show that Mencap staff consistently do exceptional work and deserve to be paid fairly but charities like our own simply cannot, and should not have to, subsidize statutory social care.
"Mencap urges Government not to duck its responsibilities but to honour its obligations to fund statutory social care for those with complex needs and eligible to receive it. The Government has presided over an extended period of misdirection on this matter, with HMRC, its appointed administration and enforcement agency for the National Living Wage, advising employers that the NMW did not apply to sleep-ins until late last year and its own website giving the same advice until July this year.
“And Government needs to recognise that only a fully funded solution will work. Partial funding would see scores of small and medium sized charities and family run firms go to the wall as they quickly became insolvent. The damage will have been done.
"Securing the future of learning disability care across the UK would be the true hallmark of a Government that is committed to fairness and building a country where no-one gets left behind".
In July, the Government announced that it will waive historic financial penalties owed by employers who have underpaid their workers for overnight sleep-in shifts before July 26 this year and temporarily suspend HMRC enforcement activity concerning payment of sleep-in shifts by social care providers until October 2.
Picture (c) PA Wire.