THE National Living Wage could result in a ‘catastrophic collapse’ in the number of care homes, according to the five biggest private providers, Four Seasons Health Care, Bupa, HC-One, Care UK and Barchester.
The five privateers have sent a begging letter to Chancellor Osborne saying that paying ‘their’ staff accounts for 60% of the cost of care. The companies said they supported the National Living Wage, but efforts would be needed to rescue the care system, ie that they need a state subsidy.
The government responded by stating that social care would be considered as part of the spending review later this year, which is pre-pledged to bring in massive austerity cuts. The wage rise that they are complaining about was announced in the Budget. Workers aged over 25 in the UK will be paid a minimum of £7.20 an hour from April next year, rising to £9 by 2020.
The five care privateers say that paying the ‘Living Wage’ will cost them £1bn by 2020. They added that they were prepared to pass the ‘problem’ of elderly care onto the NHS if they did not get a state subsidy.
Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England which represents the care ‘industry’, said: ‘Without adequate funding to pay for the National Living Wage, the care sector is at serious risk of catastrophic collapse,’ and that there was a ‘grave and very real possibility’ that one of the privateers would fail within the next two years, that is years before the Living Wage reaches £9 an hour.
Green continued: ‘We want to work with the government to find a fair solution that will ensure the care sector can provide a safe and comfortable environment for older people who live in care homes.’ A government spokesman said: ‘The overall costs of providing social care will be considered as part of the spending review later this year and we are working with the care sector to understand how the changes will affect them.’
Meanwhile, the GMB trade union, which has members in the care home service (industry), has responded to the privateers call with a message that the ‘GMB support the call by care employers for adequate funding to pay the living wage and provide high quality care.’
It adds: ‘Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said, “The dire warning from the big companies in the care sector comes as no surprise to GMB … The crisis in care is not the result of the rates of pay staff receive. It is the product of chronic underfunding by successive governments and society’s failure to face up to its responsibility to care for those who paid tax and national insurance all their lives for their times of need.”’
The GMB calls for Osborne to rescue the ‘care industry privateers’ and refuses to call for the elderly care ‘industry’ to be renationalised, and returned to being a service. This of course would require a struggle by the trade unions to bring down this government and bring in a workers government, a policy that the trade union leaders are opposed to. They prefer to form a common front with the employers!
However, there is a plan emerging sponsored by the King’s Fund charity that is now jointly responsible with NHS England (NHSE) for bringing in what are termed as the new care model vanguards. One of the new care models outlined in the ‘Five Year Forward View’ is ‘Enhanced care in care homes’. More details about these have been published in a NHSE document published in July, ‘The Forward View into Action.’
This states several times that NHS money is to be directed into care homes; e.g. ‘For enhanced health in care homes vanguards this will mean creating commissioning and contracting arrangements across health and social care to enable shared accountability for care home residents.’
The government is planning to syphon off entire chunks of the NHS budget to prop up the private care homes ‘industry’. This double-edged sword will mean even bigger cuts, closures and privatisations for the NHS taken as a whole, to keep the care home privateers in the profit-making business.
This is the solution that the GMB has announced in advance rather than demand the re-nationalisation of the Care Homes. The TUC Congress in September must reject this line and demand renationalisation and the reconstitution of the Care Home Service!