Elderly care in West Sussex could be pushed to ‘melting point’

A fund set up in the wake of the Shoreham air disaster has received more than �15,000
A fund set up in the wake of the Shoreham air disaster has received more than �15,000

Care services for elderly and vulnerable residents in West Sussex could be pushed to ‘melting point’ - according to a Crawley and Mid Sussex provider.

Sue Hills, managing director of Caremark Mid Sussex and Crawley, which employs 60 carers and provides personal care and support at home, has warned that council cash shortages, higher minimum wage rates, and new restrictions to hiring staff outside of the EU could combine to ‘make the care crisis worse’.

The UK Home Care Association (UKHCA) has already sent an open letter to Chancellor George Osborne warning that his new national living wage, announced in the Budget last month, could lead to a ‘catastrophic failure’ in the sector unless the additional costs were fully funded by the Government.

This was echoed by Peter Catchpole, West Sussex County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care and health, who said in a recent letter that he wanted the authority to play its part in making the national living wage a reality, but warned that without additional funding they would be ‘left facing some very difficult choices’.

Under the new measure workers over 25 would be guaranteed at least £7.20 an hour from April 2016, rising to £9 by 2020.

Ms Hills said: “Recruitment of local community care workers is already a major issue across the county and many other parts of the UK and needs to be addressed urgently, but new measures are likely to make the care crisis worse.

“The Government gives with one hand and takes with the other. It rightly introduces measures so people are not forced to sell their homes in order to meet residential care costs, but at the same time it is taking money from local councils, who then cannot afford to pay us a viable amount in order to pay our care workers the money they need and deserve.

“The new national living wage, due to be introduced in April, will only push up the costs further.”

She said that while Caremark already paid well above the existing minimum wage it would still be under pressure when the living wage is introduced, with recruitment already difficult as the sector often loses staff to better paid areas of public health.

This problem was particularly acute in Crawley and Mid Sussex as care workers are more likely to seek employment at Gatwick, she added.

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