The Ethical Care Charter

The over-riding objective behind the Charter is to establish a minimum baseline for the safety, quality and dignity of care by ensuring employment conditions which:

a) do not routinely short change clients and

b) ensure the recruitment and retention of a more stable workforce through more sustainable pay, conditions and training levels.

Rather than councils seeking to achieve savings by driving down the pay and conditions that have been the norm for council – employed staff, they should be using these as a benchmark against which to level up.

The Ethical Care Charter

Stage 1

  • The starting point for commissioning of visits will be client need and not minutes or tasks. Workers will have the freedom to provide appropriate care and will be given time to talk to their clients
  • The time allocated to visits will match the needs of the clients. In general, 15-minute visits will not be used as they undermine the dignity of the clients › Homecare workers will be paid for their travel time, their travel costs and other necessary expenses such as mobile phones
  • Visits will be scheduled so that homecare workers are not forced to rush their time with clients or leave their clients early to get to the next one on time
  • Those homecare workers who are eligible must be paid statutory sick pay

Stage 2

  • Clients will be allocated the same homecare worker(s) wherever possible
  •  Zero hour contracts will not be used in place of permanent contracts
  • Providers will have a clear and accountable procedure for following up staff concerns about their clients’ wellbeing
  • All homecare workers will be regularly trained to the necessary standard to provide a good service (at no cost to themselves and in work time)
  • Homecare workers will be given the opportunity to regularly meet co-workers to share best practice and limit their isolation

Stage 3

  • All homecare workers will be paid at least the Living Wage Foundation’s Living Wage (as of November 2023 it is currently £12 an hour for the whole of the UK apart from London. For London it is £13.15 an hour. The Living Wage will be calculated again in November 2024 and in each subsequent November). If Council employed homecare workers paid above this rate are outsourced it should be on the basis that the provider is required, and is funded, to maintain these pay levels throughout the contract.
  • All homecare workers will be covered by an occupational sick pay scheme to ensure that staff do not feel pressurised to work when they are ill in order to protect the welfare of their vulnerable clients.

Guidance for councils and other providers on adopting the charter

Seeking agreements with existing providers

1. Convene a review group with representation from providers, local NHS and UNISON reps to work on a plan for adopting the charter – with an immediate commitment to stage 1 and a plan for adopting stages 2 & 3

2. Start by securing agreement for a review of all visits which are under 30 minutes. The review will include getting views of the homecare workers and client (and/or their family) on how long the client actually needs for a visit and what their care package should be

Looking for savings

3. Are providers’ rostering efficiently – for example are there cases of workers travelling long distances to clients when there are more local workers who could take over these calls?

4. How much is staff turnover costing providers in recruitment and training costs?

5. How much are falls and hospital admissions amongst homecare clients costing the NHS and could some of these be prevented by longer calls and higher quality care?

6. Are there opportunities for economies of scale by providers collaborating around the delivery of training and networking/mentoring for workers?

7. Are there opportunities for collaboration between providers to achieve savings on procurement of mobile phones, uniforms and equipment for workers?

The commissioning process

1. UNISON’s evidence, along with that of other bodies such as the UKHCA, shows that working conditions are intrinsically bound up with the quality of care.

2. When councils are conducting service reviews and drawing up service improvement plans, the Charter will provide a helpful benchmark for ensuring service quality – whether for an improved in-house service or in relation to externally commissioned services.

3. Where a decision has been taken to commission homecare externally, identify how the elements of the charter will be included as service delivery processes, contract conditions or corporate objectives in the invitation to tender documents. It must explain how these are material to the quality of the service and achieving best value.

Service monitoring

1. Work with providers and trade unions to agree how service quality will be monitored and compliance with the Charter assured

2. Build regular surveys of homecare workers into this process to gain their views and consider establishing a homecare workers panel from across local providers who can provide feedback and ideas on care delivery

The provisions of this charter constitute minimum and not maximum standards. This charter should not be used to prevent providers of homecare services from exceeding these standards.

Councils that have adopted the Ethical Care Charter

A list of UK councils that have signed up to the Ethical Care Charter.

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