Media Statement on the National Care Home Contract
Yesterday Scottish Care care home members concluded a week-long vote on the National Care Home Contract. The result of that vote was an extremely reluctant decision to accept the offer made by COSLA for an uplift of 6% on the previous rate and thereby to continue the National Care Home Contract.
The National Care Home Contract (NCHC) has provided stability for those organisations who provide care and support in both residential and nursing homes, continuity for those who act as commissioners and purchase care home places for local people and transparency for those who are residents. This stability is very important because over 70% of care home residents are funded by the State and it is the national Government that essentially sets the pay and terms and conditions of the thousands of workers who are employed by charities, voluntary organisations, and private providers.
At the moment the NCHC rates for residential and 24/7 nursing care are £838 for a nursing home and £719 for a residential care home. This is equivalent to around £5 per hour for complex care and support.
The NCHC is renewed annually between Scottish Care which represents providers and COSLA representing Local Government. It is based upon a cost model which is now outdated, but offers transparency, including putting a cap on profit at 4%.
Care home providers are being faced with immense and unique challenges at the present time. The primary one of these relate to the challenge of recruiting and retaining staff. This has been made significantly harder since the Scottish Government funded Agenda for Change settlement which means that from April this year a care-worker in the NHS undertaking the same or similar role as a care home care worker is now being paid over 19% more. In addition, like many other sectors care homes have been faced with crippling cost of living pressures most especially in relation to energy costs which for smaller care homes have resulted in a 500% plus increase. The difference with other sectors is care homes cannot simply put their NCHC rates up.
Faced with these significant pressures we have sadly witnessed the largest number of care home closures the sector has experienced in the last few months and the very real fear is that this will escalate at speed. Every week at least one care home is closing down. Unfortunately, it is the small, rural, and remote private and charitable care homes which are not managing to continue operating. This is an especial risk in Scotland where most private providers are small family run businesses.
Scottish Care recognises the immense pressure that local government is under, and we recognise that the offer made by COSLA of a 6% increase – is realistically the best that they can offer without additional Scottish Government funding.
The main reason for initial rejection and this remains the case is that this rate will not pay frontline workers the £12 an hour as a stepping stone to the £15 per hour they deserve, nor address the critical energy, food and other cost issues.
Care homes have reluctantly decided to accept the 6% because after four months of discussions the lack of additional finance from Scottish Government is placing more and more of them at risk of closure. Regretfully as many have stated to us by making the decision to accept, they are only delaying the inevitable which is that many will have to close their doors within the next year.
The care home crisis which Scotland is facing is not resolved by this decision.
Scottish care home providers are seeking and continue to seek two main responses. The first is for Scottish Government to fund COSLA to enable contracted care homes and homecare organisations to pay a minimum of £12 an hour to every care worker, and secondly to release resource to address the sharp financial sustainability costs around energy, food, and cost of living increases.
Over the last three months Scottish Care has been engaged in discussions with Scottish Government and is extremely disappointed that these efforts have been fruitless.
It is with a sense of irony that this is happening at the same time as the New Deal for Business Group report has been published by Scottish Government, highlighting ambition for a strong partnership between government and business. That social care, a critical part of the foundational economy of Scotland has been excluded from this work is indicative of how little the government understands the context within which the social care sector operates, it’s importance as an employer of 1 in 8 Scots in employment, and of the wasteful siloed nature of government thinking.
As an organisation Scottish Care has over the years engaged with Scottish Government in good faith and always in a manner which always seeks constructive outcomes for those who use social care supports whether in their own home or in a care home.
Regretfully in recent weeks we have found the Scottish Government incapable of making a decision nor acting in a manner which would indicate that their stated promise to pay frontline care staff £12 is going to happen. This is to treat frontline care staff in a demeaning and dismissive manner.
The current year increase to homecare staff and to care home staff is effectively 3.8% at a time when Scottish Government has already settled and is negotiating with other health staff at significantly increased rates. We can only conclude that the current administration does not value social care staff in the same way that it values others. We can only surmise that the inability of social care staff to take direct action, and our members’ inability to influence the Government has led them to believe they can ignore the sector.
Scottish Care is dismayed at the failure of the current Scottish Government to value care staff both in our care homes and in our homecare sector. It is a government that says the right thing and makes the right promises but fails to follow through. Government by media soundbite is not respectful. Leadership that values people who work in care and even more importantly those who receive care and support is urgently needed.
Whilst the current National Care Home Contract will be signed by a majority, though clearly not by all, Scottish Care will continue to robustly argue that our frontline care staff who have given so much over so many years deserve to be treated with equality, dignity, and respect. They need a real wage for a valuable role not rhetoric and empty promise.
We call upon the current Scottish Government to stop talking and start acting in a manner that shows they truly care about care.