Local Authorities’ Statutory Care Duties

Housing, Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons on 22nd July 2019.

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Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

What assessment he has made of the ability of each local authority to fulfil its statutory care duties by the end of the 2019-20 financial year; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Mr Speaker, I join you in wishing the hon. Lady a very happy birthday—what better way to spend it than at MHCLG questions.

It is the responsibility of each individual local authority to ensure that it can fulfil its statutory care duties. We have, however, supported councils to meet those duties by giving them access to several billion pounds of incremental dedicated funding for this purpose.

Photo of Louise Haigh Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Policing)

I am very grateful for those birthday wishes, but I would be even more grateful if the Minister could agree with me that local authorities have a statutory responsibility to ensure that care workers who they have commissioned are paid the minimum wage. The all-party parliamentary group on social care has heard increasing evidence that, despite guidance issued by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, care workers are still not receiving the minimum wage because they are not paid for travel time in between their contact hours. Will the Minister give me a great birthday present by announcing that he will review the way in which care workers are paid and that he will ensure they are paid the basic statutory minimum wage?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this important issue. It is absolutely right that those who are carrying out this vital activity in difficult circumstances get exactly what they are entitled to. I have not seen the report, but I would be delighted to take a look at it later today and to talk to my colleagues at the Department for Education and the Department of Health and Social Care to see what we can do to take this forward.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee

If I had not been sitting down, I would have fallen over when the Secretary of State talked about the injection of extra cash for local authorities. This is, of course, on top of about 40% cuts in just under a decade. Local authorities are very squeezed in delivering their statutory care responsibilities and others. Will the Minister look seriously at all the work that is being done on homelessness and community building and assess the impact of these cuts in delivering wider Government policies on prevention and ensuring that people have decent homes to live in?

Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

I would echo what the Secretary of State said. This talk of cuts is simply not right. The amount of money that local authorities have to spend in this financial year is up in real terms over the last year. This was reinforced by the recent Budget, where we announced over £1 billion in incremental funding for local authorities, particularly targeted at the areas of immediate pressure in adult and children’s social care.