The Strategic Director Social Care and Education submits a report to update the Adult Social Care Scrutiny Commission on the proposal made by Leicestershire County Care Limited (LCCL) to change the Terms and Conditions of staff that transferred from the Council’s employment in 2015.
Members are recommended to note the content of the report and to provide comment and feedback to the Strategic Director and Executive.
The agenda items were taken out of order.
The Strategic Director Social Care and Education submitted a report which updated the Commission on the proposal made by Leicestershire County Care Limited (LCCL) to change the Terms and Conditions of staff that had transferred from the Council’s employment in 2015. Members were recommended to note the content of the report and to provide comments and feedback to the Strategic Director and Executive.
Councillor Russell, Deputy City Mayor, Social Care and Anti-Poverty, introduced the report and referred to the threat to the staff terms and conditions at a time when staff were undergoing a very difficult period, and were finally getting recognition for the work they did. Working with Unison, the Authority had made various approaches to the Owner of the homes and had done whatever it could to encourage them to engage and discuss the issue. It was noted the Authority would continue to monitor the quality of the care provided in the homes, and reiterated the potential for LCCL to lose long-standing, well-trained staff. It was reported that LCCL had made a request to defer final payments to the Council, and it had been responded that a discussion could be had if they deferred making any changes to the terms and conditions until after the Covid-19 pandemic and when it would be known what was happening in the care market. The Authority was continuing to monitor the financial position of LCCL to make sure the Authority did not have a chain that was unstable, which would have a significant impact on residents, but the last accounts publicly available did not show that this was the case.
Tracie Rees, Director of Adult Social Care and Commissioning, informed the meeting that despite Unison making representation, the Company had issued workers with a letter to state they had until Saturday 4th July to sign a new contract or they would be dismissed. It was reported that Unison had stated staff were worried about their employment status and were likely to sign up to the terms and conditions. Looking forward it was noted that Unison could take LCCL to a tribunal. It was also recorded that the company had high income levels which did not reflect the rationale for changing conditions.
Members noted the Company had stated they were making changes due to Covid-19. It was reported that the Council had paid over £167k to cover expenses, and voiced concern the Company was making profit, had a good level of occupancy but were still reducing the terms and conditions of staff. It was also voiced they had failed to take into account public mood and the support being given to care workers and the NHS.
Tracie Rees informed the meeting that in terms of the amount of money the Company owed Leicester City Council, the final payment of £265k for the sale of Thurncourt was due at the end of the five-year period in October 2020, so at this point in time they had paid the requirements for the homes.
Councillor Russell reported that both she and the City Mayor had written to the Chief Executive at LCCL on behalf of the Council, had written to government ministers expressing disgust on how LCCL were being allowed to continue with the way they were treating staff, but the Government required the Council to continue to pay additional money to the company despite this. It had also been raised with the Care Minister and flagged in a variety of ways including with local MPs who had taken up the issue.
Councillor Kitterick brought to the attention of the meeting that LCCL had declared a £1.5m profit in 2018, an increase in profit declared in 2017 of £983k. He added that the company stated they were making changes to terms and conditions as the business model they had was not viable, but it was a business model they had taken on and had increased profits of 50%. He asked if officers could check the LCCL family owners’ connection with Essex County Care Limited (ECCL), which was showing a mirror situation of a £1m profit loss in 2017 and £1.3m lost in 2018. He voiced concern that money being given to LCCL from the Council was filling a financial void for the company in Essex. He added that as a warning to other authorities that the decision taken as a council showed the inadvisability of selling its care homes to private owners.
Councillor Russell responded that in terms of additional funding an even approach had been taken, and a standardised rate on how the Council paid for care beds was across the board in order to try and maintain the quality of care, ensuring they could employ sufficient staff, to allow staff to take time off to undertake training, be covered for holidays, to maintain the physical quality of homes, and also in recognition that running costs had increased. She added that when commissioning beds in care homes, when a decision was taken by a family to place a family member in a care home, that the home was somewhere they could stay for a long time, and to not pay a company money might destabilise a facility. It was further reported that the most recent money from government had been parcelled out to care homes. Information had been provided to MPs to assure them that money had been used to support residents and staff and not to further line the pockets of those running the business.
Tracie Rees informed the meeting that the Council were aware that LCCL owned a number of care homes in the Essex area, and that over a number of years they had made a number of decisions to leave the market in that area, had closed some building and were seeking to sell other buildings, which might go some way to explain why they had a deficit in terms of their profits. Members responded that normally when a business was sold it did not produce a deficit, that the accounts for the company were disturbing. Councillors asked the when looking at Essex County Care Limited it might also be worth officers looking at the CQC reports also.
In response to a question, Tracie Rees reported that when the care homes were sold and the staff were TUPE’d across, there used to be a 12 month ruling whereby terms and conditions could not be changed, but there was only a certain amount of legal protection for a period of time to protect staff. It was noted that the only time an organisation could change TUPE conditions were for certain conditions, one of them being economical. LCCL had stated they wanted to change terms and conditions for that reason. Members were informed that when the sale of homes went through several years prior additional conditions could not be imposed anything in terms of the conditions around retaining staff indefinitely as TUPE stood alone as a separate legal entity and could not be changed that as a condition of sale. It was also agreed at the time to pay the same fees to LCCL as to other care homes in the city.
Members were informed that all care homes were registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulatory body for care homes, and regularly undertook inspections of home. The Council had flagged to CQC the current situation with the home and concerns that if a number of staff members were to leave the organisation the potential effect it would have on the care of residents and remaining staff. The Council also had its own quality assurance framework used to monitor conditions at the home. It was noted that the homes all had a good rating.
The Chair thanked officers and Members for their participation.
1. The report and comments by the Scrutiny Commission Members be noted, particularly the concerns for the way LCCL were treating staff.
2. Officers look at the finances and CQC reports of Essex County Care Limited homes.
3. A report be brought back to the Commission in due course.
The Chair requested if Members have any additional questions that they forward them by email to the relevant officer for a response.
Having made a declared a prejudicial disclosable interest, Councillor March left the meeting at this point at 5.27pm.