A campaign dedicated to ending 15-minute home care visits in Northern Ireland has launched this week.
The Independent Health & Care Providers (IHCP) and United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) have come together to establish the ’15’ Campaign, which calls for the scrapping of 15-minute visits for older people and fee rates of £15 an hour, which lead to low pay rates for home care workers.
The partners also hope to ensure stability for the sector with fair contracts and fair rates.
The petition comes in response to a 34p rise in the hourly home care rate announced by four out of five Health Trusts in Northern Ireland. This equates to an increase from £15.34 to just £15.68 per hour.
Northern Ireland currently has the highest level of 15-minute visits in the UK – over 30%, compared with 3.5% in England.
The Minister for Health, Mr Robin Swann MLA, has stated repeatedly that home care workers deserve to be appropriately remunerated for their work.
But IHCP and UKCHA say this “flies in the face of the reality”, adding that the rate increase means most home care workers are paid at or just above the National Living Wage, despite the demands thrust upon them in their work.
IHCP chief executive Pauline Shepherd said: “After the announcements of these unacceptable increases to the homecare rates in Northern Ireland, IHCP and UKHCA have jointly decided enough is enough.
“However well-intentioned these increases may have been, they are nowhere near the amount needed to sustain homecare workers in the current climate. These workers showed extraordinary bravery and resilience throughout the pandemic as they continued to put the needs of others before themselves. We are simply asking for fair contracts and fair rates for work which takes a toll on the workers involved.”
UKHCA CEO Dr Jane Townson (pictured) said: “UKHCA calculates that regulated homecare that can afford to pay the UK real living wage would cost at least £22.73 per hour for 2021/22.
“Northern Ireland’s fee rate is over £7 per hour below the UKHCA Minimum Price to pay care workers the Real Living Wage. A cost-saving approach which requires providers to penny-pinch from all of their budget lines when the starting point is already so low is taking risks with the quality and safety of a regulated service. It also risks undermining the ability of providers to improve the working experience of careworkers, thereby further destabilising the workforce.
“Councils in England report a planned average hourly rate for home care in 2021/22 of £18.49. This in itself is around £3 more than the amount offered in Northern Ireland, but still glaringly short of the amount required.
“So, what we are seeing are worrying issues throughout the UK, but most notably for services relied upon by many people and their families in Northern Ireland. Hopefully the Minister for Health does the right thing by intervening and ensuring fairness for all concerned.”
IHCP and UKHCA are calling on everyone to sign the petition and make the Minister for Health and respective Trust CEOs reconsider their position. You can support the 15 campaign at the following link: http://chng.it/7NCS7RC8BP