'Radio silence' from government on sleep-in care issue 'unacceptable'

The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group wants ministers to clarify how they will deal with the back-pay crisis

Sleep-in care (Photograph: Shutterstock)
Sleep-in care (Photograph: Shutterstock)

The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group has reiterated calls for the government to clarify how it will deal with the estimated £400m sleep-in care back-pay crisis.

As parliament returns from the summer recess today, the VODG has called for urgent action to clarify the situation on sleep-in care after what it claims has been "radio silence" from government and "confusing guidance" issued by HM Revenue & Customs.

Social care charities had faced paying significant sums to sleep-in care workers after an employment tribunal ruling in 2015 found that a former Mencap care worker, Claire Tomlinson-Blake, was entitled to receive the national minimum wage for each hour of sleep-in shifts completed, plus six years of back payments.

Charities had previously typically paid sleep-ins a flat rate of between £35 and £45, plus an hourly rate for any time spent providing care rather than being asleep.

The government set up the Social Care Compliance Scheme for social care providers to calculate and repay back pay owed to their care workers, which could have cost the sector a total of £400m.

But in a case brought by Mencap in July, the Court of Appeal ruled that social care providers, including many charities, did not have to pay significant sums in back pay to sleep-in care workers.

Despite this, the VODG said last month that HMRC had written to social care providers to tell them they should continue making self-reviews under the SCCS of the back pay they owe.

HMRC’s communication also said that all self-reviews should be submitted either by the end of 2018 or 12 months after their application to the SCCS, whichever was sooner.

The VODG said today it was concerned that, without further clarity from government, local care markets might "move in ad-hoc and uncoordinated ways", which would put essential services at risk.

It also warned that investment in future services could be delayed and sleep-in care providers could be forced to spend extra money on legal advice and action if the situation was not resolved sooner rather than later.

The union Unison has also applied to appeal against the Court of Appeal’s sleep-in care verdict.

Steve Scown, chair of the VODG, said: "It is more than seven weeks since the Court of Appeal judgment. Radio silence from government is unacceptable. The continued uncertainty, for social care staff and providers, helps no one.

"As parliament returns this week, we are taking the opportunity to remind government that the time has come to make urgent and important decisions about the future of sleep-in support. Government must to be very clear on what changes it is proposing about sleep-in shift work ahead of wider consultation."

The government did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this story on Tuesday morning.

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