Quarter of UK home care operators face going bust

By Samantha Fenwick
You and Yours

Image caption,
Katy Turner is working very long hours

More than a quarter of UK home care providers risk going out of business, research for the BBC suggests.

A study by business analysts for Radio 4's You and Yours programme found 715 of the 2,731 home care operators in the UK are in danger of closure.

The sector has combined debts in excess of £100m.

The government said it is working on a long-term solution for social care that "puts the sector on a sustainable footing for the future."

Katy Turner is a carer in Knowsley, Liverpool, working overtime filling gaps left by colleagues who are off sick or isolating.

She said: "There has never been an easy day since the lockdown started. When you wake up in the morning you think what's going to happen today? Every day is a battle.

"This job has a huge purpose, I feel like I can make a difference. It's more than just getting someone up and dressed. It's about giving them independence, so they can live in their own homes."

But the trade association for home care providers told the BBC that home care services are operating on the edge of sustainability.

More than half a million people in the UK receive care at home. About 80% of it is paid for by local authorities - each one sets its own hourly rate.

Minimum payment

The United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) thinks there should be a minimum payment which all councils pay for care, of £20.69 per hour. But research by the association in 2018, suggests only one in seven local councils in the UK pay this much.

Colin Angel, UKHCA policy director, said insufficient funding of home care is detrimental to the lives of vulnerable people who rely on carers.

He added: "We're still not seeing councils recognising the true cost of care, and until that happens and they are adequately funded by central government, we'll continue to see some home care businesses winding up and closing their doors."

Caring Connections provides 1,200 hours of homecare every week.

Chief executive Paul Growney said: "You're constantly on a knife-edge trying to keep the business going. It's very difficult to break even, especially with the added costs of dealing with Covid. The stress levels are unbelievable."

Image caption,
Covid restrictions are affecting the care sector

Business risk adviser Nick Hood, from Opus Business Services, said the coronavirus crisis is likely to add to the financial pressures on the already stretched social care sector.

"These companies have been struggling for years and now this hits them. They need to be resilient to come out the other side, and when you look at their finances - the one thing they don't have is resilience.

"The merest puff of adverse financial wind will blow them away. Coronavirus might be that puff of wind."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The government has made £4.6bn available to local authorities so they can address the pressures on local services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."