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Council suspends contract for elderly carers
6:31pm Thursday 19th December 2013 in News
COUNCIL chiefs have suspended their contract with an agency that provides care for the elderly because it's paying its staff too little.
As previously reported by the Daily Echo, the company was contracted to care for hundreds of disabled and frail elderly people in their own homes, for example helping with washing and dressing.
But tonight Malcolm Patrick, the Apex Companions Ltd which trades as Apex Care, denied he was a “Scrooge employer”, insisting he was paying staff between £7.15 and £8 an hour in 15 minutes slots, saying it was a very generous salary, it and didn't charge them for uniforms.
However, the firm does not pay for travel time between visits, reducing the hourly rate.
His comments come after union bosses branded the Romsey-based firm a “Scrooge employer” and accused Apex of imposing “punitive, sky-high” charges on its employees such as a £7 charge for a £20 advance until payday to buy petrol.
Adult services chief Cllr Liz Fairhurst said the council is reviewing how it purchased home care next year and this would include helping to ensure “reasonable pay and conditions” for carers.
Home carers receive petrol mileage allowances of 31p per mile significantly less than the HM Inland Revenue recommended rate of 45p.
One carer who was involved in an accident in a company car had a £500 insurance excess charge deducted from her wages, leaving her almost nothing to live on for a month, says the union.
Peter Terry regional organiser for Unison said: “This company is funded by Hampshire taxpayers. When I met with managing director Malcolm Patrick last month he seemed wholly unconcerned that his staff were being paid less than the minimum wage - he claimed he couldn't afford it.
“The ongoing refusal of Apex to pay their staff no less than the national minimum wage and Hampshire County Council's failure to ensure Apex abides by the law is disgraceful.”
But Mr Patrick defended his company which met all the key standards in a recent Care Quality Commission inspection, including staffing.
The company boss said: “A wage of £7.15 to £8 per hour is a very generous salary in the care industry. We are not a Scrooge employer at all. We pay for staff to be trained to a high standard and we don't charge for uniforms.”
He said the company received about £14 per hour from the county council for providing care in the Winchester area.
But out of that sum it had to pay for staff training and managers to organise staff rotas, the payroll, care plans for clients and holidays.
“Believe me there is not a lot left. We make about six per cent profit.”
He blamed Government for squeezing council budgets. “The council has not got a lot of money either. It is a central government issue.”
Unison estimates 200,000 care workers across the country are paid less than the minimum wage.
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