Dozens of leading charities face insolvency after Government demands back pay for night-time carers

Vulnerable people could lose ‘vital care’ after HMRC demands £400m bill, warn charity chiefs

Dozens of leading charities could face insolvency within weeks after the Government ruled they must pay millions of pounds in back payments to overnight carers. Around 200 disability charities, including Mencap, are said to face a bill of around £400m in back payments after new guidance was issued stating overnight carers must be paid the national minimum wage (NMW) for all hours.

Vulnerable people with learning difficulties face losing “vital” care as a result of the bills, charities have warned, with around 5,500 supported by Mencap alone set to be “majorly impacted”, while some may end up losing that support all together.

Under guidance issued by the Government in 1999, when the minimum wage was introduced, disability charities, which sent a carer overnight to look after someone with learning difficulties, were required to pay a flat rate “on call” allowance of £25 or £35 to cover the period when they were asleep.

But, following two tribunal cases in 2015 and last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) changed the guidance in October to state that these organisations must now pay the minimum wage throughout the shift, meaning overnight carers would earn £60 for eight hours of sleep.

Mencap and other charities and companies are now warning that they cannot afford the huge and unexpected additional sums being demanded by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), even though they believe their staff should get the higher pay levels demanded by the business department.

Derek Lewis, chairman of the Royal Mencap Society, said “sleep-ins”, which are widely used in the sector, rarely see the carer disturbed during the night, citing research showing that 99.7 per cent of them slept peacefully.

“Sleep-ins are widely used in the learning disability sector to provide care for some of our most vulnerable adults, in their own homes in the communities they live in,” he said.

“The carer is only there ‘just in case’ to provide safety and reassurance and is rarely disturbed. Recent research which looked at the last three years showed that 99.7 per cent of carers slept peacefully.

“The unintended consequences have been disastrous as HMRC have begun enforcement action demanding six years’ back pay. Estimates of the costs to the Learning Disability sector are in the region of £400m and Royal Mencap Society will be severely affected.”

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2 thoughts on “Dozens of leading charities face insolvency after Government demands back pay for night-time carers

  1. The economy has been underpaid for years with these carers denied even their mimimum wage. How much tax has been lost and how many carers had to claim benefits to get by? It is a disgrace surely? This is another case of somebody’s skills and time being undervalued. When an MP suggested disabled people could be paid less than minimum wage just to get them working, (implying they were a bit hopeless and worth less.) there was an outcry over how discriminatory that was. Why is this different? A carer could be employed to be awake and clean and cook etc while their charge sleeps but of course, having someone busy in the house would not create a good atmosphere for sleep.

    I remember years ago, night carers being on hand for toileting, falling out of bed, drinks of water, seizures and so on. But even if their charge sleeps thorough, they needed to be ready to get up which may cause broken sleep. They also need to be punctual and most likely put their charge to bed, and all that entails, and in the morning, get them up, toileted, washed, dressed, fed with medications ect all dealt with before they leave. This may involve more complicated tasks eg. injections. Often carers were like a friend, sitting talking or Playing chess etc before bed, a refreshing change from family. To degrade this job and say it is just sleeping, is unfair on the many dedicated and hard working carers who work hard to enhance the lives of others and in so doing, have to leave their own families and cumfy beds to ‘sleep’ elsewhere.

    Some employed carers may get their back pay, but think of the thousands of self employed carers who had to set their rates at the industry standard, who will get no recognition of their underpaid service and also those who worked for firms that no longer trade. They too, presumably, will get nothing. Whilst I feel sorry for the Charities, and understand they were trying to get best value for money for their diasabled members, it has been grossly unfair to expect people to accept less than minimum wage for any job, never mind such a responsible job as being in sole charge, caring.

    We see on our TV screens elderly and disabled people abused by nasty carers. I think this is allowed to happen because we simply wont value caring skills. It is too often left to the poorest and most desperate, to take these low status roles and employers struggle to get and keep quality staff. I’m so saddened to read carers don’t need paying because 99.7% of the time they are sleeping on the job. Sounds like the carers are not really needed hey? Who employs a carer, even at cut price for the .3% of the time they might need assistance? Surely there are emergency services that can deal with those odds? I doubt govt ministers will fail to notice how unnessary these carers are seen to be!

    The charities should be honest and say that these sleep-over carers are essential to the well being of their members, not further devalue them. I’m appalled.

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