In November, Allied Healthcare, one of the UK’s largest providers of home care suddenly announced that it was handing back all its contracts with councils across the country. Cornwall Council has taken immediate action to ensure everyone here continues to get the care they need, but there is a bigger picture to consider...
The Conservative government has cut funding to all councils, and many have responded by cutting the rates they pay to their social care providers. Many carers only earn the minimum wage, so further savings are only possible by cutting corners such as not paying carers for travel time between appointments, or for time spent receiving training.
Unsurprisingly, this is leading to a recruitment crisis, with 100,000 vacancies nationwide. It is predicted that a further 650,000 carers will be needed in the next 17 years (not sure how Brexit will help here!)
But this dark cloud has a silver lining: Liberal Democrats on Cornwall Council have increased spending on social care, enabling us to pay higher rates to care providers, so travel expenses and training are fully funded. We’ll also be giving home-care workers free parking permits next year and they’re workers now earning the “proper” living wage (about £1 above the minimum). They deserve more, but it’s a start.
The result is that Cornwall’s care sector is in a stronger position than most, and average wages for the wider economy have increased by 5.6% here; that’s more than three times the national average!
Austerity is not over yet; despite announcements about spending on the NHS and armed forces, the Conservatives plan to cut council funding again every year for the next five years. Council tax will rise and more care providers will go under, but we will keep fighting to protect the most vulnerable in Cornwall.