Councillor Adam Hug, speaking at Westminster Council’s Annual Council meeting, said;
“In the new contracts, while proposing a modest increase on the current position being passed onto both providers and careers, still falls at £1 per hour below the rate that Westminster claims would be needed to achieve the London Living Wage. We argue that more could be achieved by putting pressure on these, in some cases, large private providers, to do more from their side, particularly given the competitive state of the home care market, but we have identified the need for extra council funding to deliver the LLW.
The council’s plan to lock in the hourly rate to providers at a fixed sum, without adjustment for inflation, across a very long multi-year contract, means that providers may well fix the rates they pay their staff at rates well below the LLW and decreasing in real terms.
Given the length of contract under discussion Westminster will be locking its homecare staff out of the London Living Wage until several years after the Mayor’s 2020 target for all local authority staff and contractors to receive it. As more and more London council’s pay their homecare staff the LLW, Westminster will stand a real risk of losing its most skilled and committed workers to other boroughs who more highly value their services, particularly in the later years of the contract.
David Hogarth has raised important concerns about ensuring that Westminster can effectively use its electronic monitoring systems to monitor contract performance, particularly given the broadly sensible transition from ‘time and task’ to more flexible care designed around the service user.
While I support the move to patches he raises important concerns about what happens when a local provider fails, or falls out with, a particular user and alternative options should be able to be put in place for those where relations breakdown. Westminster needs to ensure that contracts with particular patch providers can be exited if they fail to meet their quality commitments. Listening to the voice of service users must not only be heard in shaping individual care packages but must be an important part of overall contract monitoring.
Measures on continuity of carer is welcome but for those receiving the highest level care hours the proposed cap is still too high.
We welcome the specialist and extra care housing moves but will want to ensure that the transition from residential homes is managed sensitively for those who are currently living in those homes can make a dignified transition, avoiding multiple moves, wherever possible retaining friendship groups developed and that greater personal space does not lead to greater isolation.
Many Councillors value the importance of voluntary carers onto whose backs greater and greater responsibility is being placed without commensurate increase in resource, particularly in light of the care thresholds where friends and family are left floundering in the absence of access to official support for those deemed in moderate need. From speaking to residents across my ward and elsewhere we need to continue to do more in terms of financial, respite and pastoral support for carers.”