A massive 95% of homecare providers have said that their staff have expressed concern about current or potential future increases in the cost of living, according to research conducted by the Homecare Association.
In a survey that attracted more than 625 responses of the Association’s members, more than four-fifths (82%) added that the primary concern for staff on the cost of living was either the cost of fuel or energy bills.
Moreover, half of respondents asserted that careworkers had requested an increase in the mileage rate, while more than a fifth (21%) added that careworkers had either given notice, intended to look for work elsewhere or had already done so because they cannot afford to put fuel in their cars.
A North-South divide in England was also clearly apparent, with 83% of providers in the North East paying mileage rates of 30p per mile or less, with only 39% in the South West. Regrettably, we have evidence from other work that many homecare workers receive only 10p per mile. Only 2% of providers that responded to this survey were paying above 45p per mile. In contrast, some NHS trusts are now paying community staff 54p per mile, with no reduction at higher mileage levels.
Homecare Association CEO, Dr Jane Townson, said:
“Many people in the UK are deeply concerned about how they will cope with rapidly escalating costs of living, particularly fuel and food price increases. Such inflationary increases are likely to have a disproportionate impact on those with lower income and less secure employment, such as homecare workers.
“Employers in homecare are acutely aware of the value of their care staff and the pressures they are under and want to ensure they receive fair remuneration, including covering variable costs such as mileage. Operating with increasingly tight margins, though, providers in the state-funded part of the sector have little room for manoeuvre.
“Furthermore, 90% of homecare workers use their own cars or public transport for work. Many are unable to afford newer fuel-efficient vehicles, which means they must pay emissions or clean air charges in cities where they apply. Public transport routes and timetables do not always line up with homecare delivery needs, particularly in the suburbs. In rural areas, public transport is simply not a viable option for homecare delivery. Collectively, homecare workers across the UK are estimated to travel more than 4 million miles per day. Given a high proportion of these visits are by car, fuel costs are significant, particularly in rural areas.
“The government has allocated insufficient funding to homecare to ensure quality and sustainability of services, preferring to support the NHS instead. Indeed, homecare receives less than 4% of the amount spent on the NHS. This is short-sighted, especially as the NHS is citing collapse of homecare services in some areas as a key cause of delayed discharges from hospital, making elective recovery plans even harder to deliver.
“Therefore, we call on the government to:
- Provide temporary grant funding as a fuel allowance to cover increased costs of fuel for vehicles needed to deliver homecare;
- Provide funding in the short-term to cover emission/clear air charges in cities where they apply and support lease or purchase of electric fleet vehicles for homecare services to enable a reduction in emissions in homecare in the longer-term;
- Provide adequate baseline funding for homecare to ensure that fee rates cover costs and careworkers receive fair remuneration, including full recompense for work-related expenses such as mileage. Such investment is needed to build workforce capacity and reduce unmet need, recognising that NHS hospitals will never succeed in reducing their waiting lists if they cannot free up beds by discharging people back home.”