Adult Social Care: Views from the Sector - Chapter Care
Chapter Care operate in North Devon and provide domiciliary care and support to users throughout the county, including to many in hard to reach places. According to 2017 census data, 25 per cent of people living in North Devon are over the age of 65, making it an interesting example to demonstrate the effect of increased demand on care services. In the second part of our series on adult social care, we spoke to Company Director Jeff Wilton-Love who puts forward an innovative method to solve the care recruitment crisis and calls for care services to become VAT Zero Rated.
As the green paper is once more delayed, the effect of this uncertainty is hitting those within the care sector. Commenting on this delay, Jeff explained:
“With regards to the green paper, I think the delay is giving a lack of clarity as to direction. Until we know what is in it, we can’t look forward and have no idea what difference the content could make. We can all assume things but it doesn’t allow us to make proper strategic plans and therefore we have no idea what changes could be suggested. I think the whole care sector can see the problems we are facing and are hoping to get them addressed in some respect. I know I am waiting with baited breath to find out if we are still battling a seemingly endless battle or whether there has been real recognition of what we are dealing with daily.”
As mentioned in our introduction to this series, one of the key issues facing the care sector is filling staff vacancies and ensuring that when workers join the care sector, they stay. Key to achieving this is raising wages: those care workers on the lowest wages are most likely to leave the sector and nearly a third of those paid between £7.20 and £7.49 left their care job in 2016/17. This was a key priority for Jeff, who told us:
“In the paper, I would love to see the disparity in pay addressed as we need to be able to compete with supermarkets and restaurants. However, going further, I think there is a strong need for the entire industry to be brought “up-to-date” and to change perceptions. Professionalism through standardised training and a recognised at-work qualification would be an excellent step.
"The NVQ that we do at the moment is ok but we need it to go further and I would suggest we pull things in line with nurse training. The qualification should be a stepping stone into nursing and, in fact, if we could make this the case, we could offer perhaps a three year social care placement as a career path into the NHS. It would be a fantastic recruitment tool and also would double as a feeder into the NHS for nurses.”
Another key issue facing care services is the disparity between the cost of their services and the rates they are paid by the local authority. In 2016/17, local authorities paid, on average, £15.52 to external providers for one hour of home care. This is 16 per cent below the £18.01 rate that the United Kingdom Home Care Association said had is necessary for care providers to deliver sustainable services. To help support care services financially, Jeff explained the need to revisit the VAT status of care services. He explained:
“We cannot charge VAT but we have to pay it on everything, including everything we use for work, aprons, gloves etc, and can claim none back. This is unfair: every other business can claim VAT back and this is putting more pressure on an already pressurised sector.
“I understand we cannot charge VAT on our service and that is fine but if we had a change to Zero Rated for example, we could still offer VAT free on our service but could claim back any charges that are incurred when purchasing anything, just like every other business.
“This would allow us to invest in other areas. I looked at bringing in Telecare to try and improve our service but the fact we needed to pay VAT on everything, and couldn’t claim any back, meant we weren’t able to proceed. I want to look at ways to bring more money into our business and pay our staff better; VAT exempt status prevents this. I think it’s a completely unfair position to be sitting in, especially while we are paid so little. Let us have opportunity as a business to build: we could invest and bring more money in.”