As we approach the end of the financial year for Government organisations we are concerned over the future of funding for Social Care or Home Care.
The biggest cuts in Goverment spending are front loaded into fiscal year 2011/12 which means that the full impact of cuts is yet to hit. The local Government budget for 2011/12 have not been finalised yet so we have not heard what further pressure there will be on prices.
What concerns us as a service provider that in the rush to reduce costs the quality of care given is being forgotten. Decisions on what to spend and on what are now being taken by back office staff who are purely looking at the costs, front line staff are not being given control.
Central Government talked about wanting decisions on health spending beeing made by front line staff, those that are closest to the patient, but that is not what we are seeing on the ground when it comes to home care.
If service providers are continued to be squeezed on price then there will only be two choices, withdraw the service or cut wages to our staff. Cutting staff wages is not a sustainable business proposition because they are not highly paid in the first place and are suffering high rates of inflation at the moment, especially with regard to fuel which is essential for delivering care in people’s own homes.
It is hard to recruit good quality care staff because of the pay rates in the industry. Those staff that we have do a fantastic job for our clients and we do not want them to leave the industry because of problems brought on by circumstances beyond our control.
We understand that times are tough and that some sacrifices have to be made but just keeping prices the same with the inflation we are suffering at the moment is like a 5% price decrease. The increase in VAT hits home care providers because the services provided are exempt from VAT so no VAT paid on purchases can be reclaimed.
There is a disconnect between central goverment and local government, centrally there is a wish to protect health spending but locally managers are being given tough cost reduction targets so they target some of the big spending areas, which of course includes healthcare costs.
Francis Maude on Question Time said that Local Councils should cut out waste but then much to our dismay said that suppliers should be squeezed. Many Local Government suppliers are small busineses that cannot afford to be squeezed, these small businesses are those same ones that the Government want to be the engine room of the economy. Politicians should think through properly the consequences of what they are saying.
We hope as a business to do all we can to be agile and to help Local Government in the delivery of savings but it is not all about cost.