Councils accused of 'unacceptable' pay rates for carers
A home care provider has accused two Merseyside councils of offering "unacceptable" wages to carers.
Mears Group is ending its contracts with Wirral and Liverpool councils over their proposed hourly pay rates of £12.92 and £13.10 respectively.
The United Kingdom Homecare Association recommends home care providers are paid a minimum hourly rate of £16.70.
Wirral Council said it had raised its fees while Liverpool said its rates reflected the national minimum wage.
Mears Group claimed both authorities had refused to accept they were "simply not paying enough".
Executive director Alan Long said: "Our top priority is to provide a quality service to people requiring care, with well-deserving staff being paid a decent wage.
He said the new offers were "extremely irresponsible" which it would "challenge at every level".
"While we have sympathy for financial pressures on local authorities we have no sympathy for any council that is bullying providers into operating illegally," said Mr Long.
"The people who will suffer the most are those receiving care and that is completely and utterly unacceptable."
Wirral Council said it had invested an extra £3m into care while Liverpool said it had put £2m more into homecare.
Graham Hodkinson, Wirral Council's director of adult social care, said carers' fees had been increased to meet the "growing gap between the money they receive and the care they need to deliver".
Liverpool City Council's cabinet member for adult social care and health, councillor Paul Brant, said its proposed increase later this year "reflects the new national minimum wage and allows firms to make a reasonable profit on top".
"We are facing huge challenges due to cuts in our funding from central government. In the case of Mears we did offer to work with them to help reduce their overheads, and we are sorry they have instead chosen to pull out of the region altogether."
He said Mears only provide a small share of local provision (9%) and its staff would simply transfer across to the city's other providers "meaning there will be no disruption in home care".
United Kingdom Homecare Association policy director Colin Angel said it had "repeatedly warned" government and individual councils that home care agencies cannot continue to accept unsustainable fees.
He added: "Councils should expect providers to begin serving notice where they believe they cannot meet their legal responsibilities."