Two councils have been served notice over their ‘unacceptable’ new hourly rate for carers, by Mears Group.
The homecare provider has criticised Liverpool City Council and Wirral Council over their proposed change to wages, arguing the new rate would lead to ‘unworkable pay and conditions’ for care workers.
Liverpool City Council has proposed increasing the hourly rate for home care to £13.10, while Wirral Council is offering £12.92. The United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) recommends charging £16.70 an hour to achieve good levels of care.
Executive director of Mears Alan Long said the new offers from both councils were ‘extremely irresponsible’ and could even be illegal.
He said: ‘This is the first time Mears Group has ever had to take action of this nature, but we will not operate in an illegal way and we do not see how any other provider can do so either.
‘The people who will suffer the most are those receiving care and that is completely and utterly unacceptable.’
He added: ‘I hope that both councils can see sense and be prepared to change this unacceptable position.’
Liverpool City Council's cabinet member for adult social care and health, cllr Paul Brant, said: 'We have contracts with 11 home care companies and are working positively with them. The proposed rate, which will cost the council an additional £2m per year, reflects the new National Minimum Wage and allows firms to make a reasonable profit on top.
'Mears are a company based outside the City Region without the long experience and economies of scale of many of our local providers. Mears only provide a small share of local provision, but we will continue to work closely with them to ensure a smooth transition. Their staff will simply transfer across to other providers in the city, meaning there will be no disruption in the home care provided.
'As everyone knows, we are facing huge challenges due to cuts in our funding from central Government, and in calculating rates we look closely at the amount paid by other local authorities in the region. In the case of Mears we did offer to work with them to help reduce their overheads, and we are sorry they have instead chosen to pull out of the region altogether.'
Graham Hodkinson, Wirral's director of adult social care, said: 'Earlier this year, Wirral invested an additional £3.35m in increasing fees to the care sector to help meet the growing gap between the money they receive and the care they need to deliver. This was more than £1m over the figure that the government allowed us to raise via the budget precept for adult social care.
'Wirral has a clear commitment to good quality care for the residents of Wirral. The providers we use offer a vital service, and we will continue to work with them.'