Adult domiciliary care: a new approach to contracting

UNISON West Sussex has been talking to West Sussex County Council for several months, trying to persuade them to adopt key principles when re-tendering their huge Domiciliary Care (‘dom care’) Contract.

This major contract sets, provides and monitors the standard of service provided by the council to adults requiring social care at home. Some of the changes in WSCC’s approach to tendering reflect UNISON’s ‘Ethical Care Charter’: a document championed nationally by the union to create minimum standards of adult domiciliary care across the country.

Regrettably the council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr Peter Catchpole ruled out signing up to UNISON’s care charter.

But reflecting concerns about the stability of the domiciliary care market and high turnover in the workforce, WSCC is contracting to ensure:

  1. Time allocated to service users will be sufficient to meet their needs;
  2. Sufficient travel time between appointments: no imposition of unachievable travel times that may compromise the quality of service;
  3. Measures to counter the problems caused by isolation through lone-working;
  4. Training, costs of staff travel, mobile phones and uniforms will be fully accounted for by the care provider so staff are not out of pocket;
  5. Contract bidders will be invited to show the range of information available to their staff regarding the role of trade unions and membership;
  6. UNISON will be able to input to annual reviews to make the council aware of any issues our members in those firms are experiencing.

The emphasis during tendering will be to develop a sustainable workforce of well- trained, fairly-paid and fully-supported staff.

Branch Secretary Dan Sartin said, “We know the market for adult social care is very unstable at the moment: some agencies are closing and there is a high turnover of staff. We hope the improvements to the contract we have helped to secure will provide a more constructive working environment for care staff and stabilise the market. It is far from all we wanted, but it is a start.

This is a vital issue for UNISON members working in dom care, but also for our wider membership which is predominantly female, as high quality dom care eases the burden of caring on our women members.”

The Labour Party is committed to limiting the use of zero-hours contracts. If a Labour Government is elected on 7 May, the council will need to review how it contracts within the law for domiciliary care work provided through zero-hours contracts.