Exposing cowboy care providers: the state of social care

Research published today by the Centre for Health and Public Interest shows what UNISON members have been saying for decades: residential care homes are being run irresponsibly.

The financial structure of our overstretched and underfunded care sector has been revealed, with an estimated 10% of income suspiciously “leaking out” each year.

UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Every year millions of pounds are lost from the sector, which could have been spent on care.

“There are rich pickings for the shadowy businesses operating UK care homes from tropical tax havens, siphoning off their haul while residents go short.

“Fixing the broken care system must be the number one priority for the next government.

“But with so much cash being sucked from the sector, simply flinging more resources at it is not the answer. Nothing short of a fundamental review of how care is structured, financed and provided will suffice.”

Full report here

The care home industry and the wider social care sector is desperately short of cash, but extra funding must not be wasted on extra profit for directors and investors. Significant government investment, as well as regulation, is needed to ensure the money goes where it should.

Across the 26 largest care home providers in the UK, a total of £261m of the money they receive to provide care goes towards repaying debt. Out of this, £117m is payments to related companies – a known way of dodging tax and hiding profits.

The money that is funnelled out of care businesses and into rental and debt repayments detracts from the money available to pay for frontline care such as food, staff and facilities.

Samantha, aUNISON member and senior carer in a small residential care home, described how poor the conditions are in her workplace: “If someone can’t turn up, they expect you to do their shift, even if it’s coming straight after a night shift.

“It’s all because management don’t want to spend money. The government ought to put something in place where they can’t bully people like that.

“I haven’t signed a contract since I’ve started. At the moment I haven’t got a contract. Same with everybody. I permanently do one wake-in and three sleep-ins every week.

“But the last two weeks I’ve covered for someone’s holiday, so four wake-ins. But no secure contract.

“The government ought to put in something where carers do get at least the real living wage. And there’s got to be something else there to support us.

πThat amount at least, because of everything that we have to do. If it wasn’t for us, the home wouldn’t be running. We’re underestimated because of the amount of people who are going into care homes and nursing homes.”

Lynn, a UNISON member and care assistant in a large care home, said: “A lot of the time I don’t feel valued. They struggle with staff at the weekends … but I can’t help thinking if they pay their own staff better money at the weekends it would be less than a problem”.

UNISON is fighting for change for care workers and the people they care for. Find out more and pledge to support the campaign at www.unison.org.uk/changecare

Care Workers for Change campaign