As the sector awaits the Court of Appeal's ruling on sleep-ins, representatives of approximately half of all organisations who provide care services to people with learning disabilities in the UK have written to the Chair of the Charity Commission asking her to take action on the sleep-in crisis.
34 organisations have signed the letter to Baroness Stowell including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Learning Disability Voices, a coalition comprised of over 20% of the providers of UK care services to people with learning disabilities, and VODG, who support more than 1 million disabled people in the UK.
The signatories have asked Baroness Stowell to raise the issue urgently with Government as a matter of public interest.
Many providers of care services in the UK are registered charities, and thus regulated by the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission enforces rules and provides guidance to all charities registered in the UK.
For charities, it is considered best practice to use any money donated in the way it was intended to be used by the donor. Often, people donating to charities who provide services to people with learning disabilities do so to ensure family members and friends can live independent lives and fund additional programmes which allow vulnerable people to interact with their communities. The letter draws attention to the fact that charitable reserves and money donated by the public may have to be used to cover the costs of the sleep-in back pay bill, if government assistance is not immediately forthcoming.
Moreover, when providing public services, the Charity Commission instructs charities to manage financial risks including not receiving enough money to deliver the service.
Tim Cooper, Co-Chair of Learning Disability Voices said, 'If our underfunded social care charities are forced to pay for sleep-in back pay bill, this will be tantamount to charities funding essential government services.
'Since the Government has the statutory duty to fund care services for the most vulnerable through the Care Act, and given that they have never funded sleep-in shifts at the National Minimum Wage rate, if they do not act now it will be charities who are left to pick up the Government’s tab. In the underfunded care sector this is scandalous.
'Large charities will be forced to use their hard-earned reserves which includes money donated by the public. Smaller charities will likely be forced to close their doors permanently - effectively abandoning vulnerable people. This is a matter of public interest.
'Even more scandalous is the fact that none of us had a chance to plan for this expense. The unexpected sleep-in back pay bill results from what the Government now admits was misleading guidance. It is unacceptable to leave charities to cover a bill they cannot afford and could not have seen coming.'
Rhidian Hughes, Chief Executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG), said, 'Further government inaction on the sleep in payments issue is simply wrong. Government cannot keep kicking this can down the road. Government must commit to funding the sleep-in back pay bill now.
'We have already seen a provider in Blackpool close and a care provider in Dorset hand back a contract. This is happening across the UK. Care services to people who most rely on essential overnight support are being disrupted.
'In October, charity providers will have to account for how they will pay the £400m back pay bill due across the UK. Many of them simply cannot afford the unforeseen expense and will be forced to close. Other, larger charities, may have to hand back services in certain areas or cut back programmes for the people they care for which allow them better quality lives.
'This will leave local authorities and NHS Trusts to cope with an even greater increased demand on their resources.
'If charities are forced to pay the back pay bill, the future of services that provide overnight care and support are at risk.
'£400 million is a colossal amount to the charity care sector but only a drop in the bucket for the Government. Considering that they would have paid this money to providers already if their own previous guidance had not been mistaken, it is farcical for the Government to even consider leaving charities to pick up their tab.
'The Government must announce that they are fully funding sleep-in back pay by September. It’s the only solution.'
The letter to the Charity Commission follows a survey of the UK care sector released on 8 May 2018 which revealed that the viability of nearly 70% of the care sector is threatened by the sleep-in pay crisis.