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2014 National Delegate Conference
1 January 2014

Conference notes that:

1) Since 2010 the government has imposed a £2.6 billion reduction in social care funding which has had a devastating impact on home care services;

2) As local authority’s budgets have been squeezed they have used competitive tendering to drive down the costs and standards of home care;

3) A recent UNISON survey of care workers found that 79.1% of respondents have to rush their work or leave their client early in order to be on time for their next appointment. There is considerable evidence of the cuts leading to deterioration in the terms and conditions of care workers;

4) The crisis in home care has become so profound that a group of housing associations backed by the National Housing Federation and Chartered Institute of Housing recently demanded a national review of care commissioning;

5) Brendan Sarsfield, CEO of Family Mosaic recently argued that care providers are now stretched to the limit. He said: ‘Tendering drives down wages, destabilises services, crushes innovation and draws limited resources away from the real work with service users’.

Conference welcomes the progress of UNISON’s Ethical Care Campaign since its launch in 2012. The Charter advocates a minimum standard of care that local authority commissioners should seek to deliver. The campaign puts recruiting and organising the home care workforce at its heart and highlights how low wages and poor terms and conditions for home care workers undermine the reliability of the service for users and service users’ human rights.

Conference believes that home care workers pay and status should reflect the compassion and skill their job requires.

Conference considers that:

a) The case for addressing the home care crisis is particularly compelling in light of Britain’s aging population. In the next two decades the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 50% and the number of people aged over 85 will double;

b) The government so far has failed to take adequate action to address the crisis in home care funding and has instead allowed local authorities and service providers to make the difficult decisions about allocating inadequate resources;

c) Recent comments by Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb that “Social care organisations are independent and make their own decisions about their staff’ expose unacceptable complacency about this issue at governmental level.

Conference welcomes in particular:

i) The commitment of a small number of local authorities, led by Southwark and Islington, which have been first to adopt UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter and the work of the respective UNISON branches which have brought this about;

ii) The launch of UNISON’s “Pay Up for Travel Time” campaign and the successful legal challenges which have established that travelling time between service users’ homes is work time and must be paid;

iii) Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) exposure of the growing number of social care employers not complying with National Minimum Wage legislation by not paying for travelling time, not paying for training time, unlawful deductions and other practices and it welcomes the new rules to name employers to whom HMRC has issued Notices of Underpayment; and,

iv) The splendid results of the UNISON Northern Ireland Home Care Project where innovative approaches have trebled the number of home care workers in membership.

However, this leaves the position unaltered in the great majority of local authorities etc. which deliberately under-fund the commissioning of home care distorting the market and driving it ever downward. Nor have many branches made much headway recruiting and organising the growing home care workforce.

Conference urges all councils etc. to commit to commission home care services which meet the standards of the charter, in particular to:

A) Commission services based on users’ needs not workers’ time, end the scandal of fifteen-minute visits, end “call-cramming” and give workers enough time for the human contact and care people deserve;

B) End the practice of commissioning from large numbers of providers without guaranteeing work from one week to the next so that providers cannot guarantee hours to their staff;

C) Refrain from commissioning from providers which do not pay the Living Wage, which make unlawful deductions from wages for items like uniforms, which impose zero-hours contracts, which do not pay for travel time or training time or which fail to offer staff an appropriate range of training; and,

D) Rebuild a public sector in home care with in-house services which offer an excellent standard, accountability, an organised and trained workforce and where none of the resources are creamed off as profit for shareholders.

Conference considers that achieving UNISON’s objectives widely will need sustained local campaigning based upon:

I) Learning the lessons of the Northern Ireland project to recruit and organise a scattered workforce with rapid turnover where there are many small employers mainly in the private sector;

II) Linking workforce demands with the needs, experiences and aspirations of service users and strengthening UNISON’s links with appropriate pensioners’ organisations, charities etc. to help do so;

III) Ensuring equality and diversity issues arising both among the workforce and among service users are addressed appropriately; and,

IV) Building local coalitions to exert influence upon councils etc. seeking support from each section of the Political Fund as appropriate.

Conference resolves to lobby central and local government to ring fence home care budgets and offer a fairer deal to care workers as set out in the Charter. Key demands include: an end to zero hour contracts, a guarantee of paid travel time, care appointments of a fair duration and pay which reflects skills, qualifications and responsibilities and is at least at the level of the Living Wage.

Conference instructs the National Executive Council to work with relevant service groups to seek to ensure that:

01) The Charter is promoted and awareness raised of the challenges faced in the home care sector;

02) This campaign is given an appropriate priority in regions and relevant branches;

03) Campaign material and other resources are available to mount campaigns in line with I)-IV) above;

04) Regions offer opportunities to exchange information and build on campaign successes;

05) A high profile campaign is delivered to highlight the difficulties faced by home care workers and raise awareness of the Charter and its demands;

06) Work is put in hand with Labour Link to encourage the Labour Party and Shadow Ministers to adopt the Ethical Care Charter in local councils etc., promote an adequate and sustainable funding regime for social care, to commit to issuing human rights guidance to local authorities etc. with respect to social care and to extending the definition of “public function” under the Human Rights Act 1998 to include home care provided by the private and voluntary sectors.

07) There is a formal response from the government to the Charter;

08) The Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb is written to highlighting examples of unfair working practices in the home care sector and explain why a change of approach is required.