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19th January 2016

Zero hours contracts could be limited for domiciliary care staff after study

Research into how to improve retention and recruitment of domiciliary care workers has suggested limiting the use of zero hours contracts, paying the national minimum wage and paying for travel time.

The Welsh Government, which commissioned the research in July 2015, is now launching a consultation on actions it could take to improve the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers in Wales.

It is estimated there are 19,500 home care workers in Wales, delivering about 260,000 hours of care a week to 23,000 people. The sector has a staff turnover of about 32% and a vacancy rate of 6%.

Health and social services minister, Mark Drakeford, said sustainable social care was dependent on a stable workforce. He added: "I am very aware of the significant variations in the workforce and the consequences of this for the quality of care. These matters are particularly acute in domiciliary care.

"The consultation being launched today sets out a range of measures the Welsh government could take to improve the quality of domiciliary care in Wales by having a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers."

'Minimum Wage places financial pressures on sector'

Professor Drakeford said he was aware the rise in minimum wage over the next few years would place financial pressures on the sector, but said the consultation would help the Welsh government understand the impact of its proposals on the sustainability of care provision.

Care Forum Wales chair, Mario Kreft, said: “There's absolutely no doubt that social care workers deserve the living wage and more, but nobody has answered the question [on] how it's going to be funded,” he said.

“Introducing the national living wage over the next four years is going to represent a 30 per cent increase for many workers.

“This will ramp up all pay rates across the sector and this will have to be paid for. Most industries are able to pass such increases on to the customer. However, the overwhelming majority of people in care homes in Wales are supported by local authorities, and health boards who are having their budgets cut.

"That means there is just no money to pay these increases. Something has got to give and I'm afraid it will plunge the social care sector into an even deeper crisis.”

Research shows link between employment terms and quality of care

The interim research findings by the team at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School show there is a clear relationship between domiciliary care employment terms and conditions and the quality of care provided.

Suggested ways to improve the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care staff include:

  • Limiting the use of zero-hours contracts by restricting the number of care hours or the percentage of care hours which domiciliary care providers can deliver by zero-hours contracts
  • Making sure employers pay domiciliary care workers the national minimum wage by ensuring Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales carries out checks as part of the inspection process
  • Preventing so-called 'call clipping', a process where calls are systematically cut short as care workers either do not have enough or any time to travel between calls, by making sure care providers pay domiciliary care workers for the time spent travelling to their clients and the time they spend with their clients.

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