A survey of 52 social services authorities found that rates of pay for Personal Assistants (PAs) were very low, typically at minimum wage rates. The report concludes that in many local authority areas there is a serious ‘market failure’ – such that authorities are arguably in breach of their statutory and public law obligations to families with disabled children. The research was undertaken by the Cerebra Legal Entitlements and Problem-Solving (LEaP) Project based at the School of Law, Leeds University.
The key findings of the research include:
- that Direct Payment rates were too low to employ suitable PAs despite their local authority being willing to pay much higher rates for agency staff;
- that the difficulty of finding suitable staff who were prepared to work for the rates imposed by local authorities was a major and reoccurring theme of the survey as was fear by respondents of losing the Direct Payments if they were not able to find such staff;
- that there was a lack of knowledge by families as to how Direct Payments were calculated and what the actual rate was in individual cases ;
- that strict rationing of resources is resulting in families experiencing stress, an acute lack of support and prolonged ‘battles’ to secure basic services that they are entitled to by law.
The report’s recommendations include that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care take action to address the severe market failure highlighted by the research (including the use of his powers of direction under Local Authority Social Services Act section 7D). It notes that action of this nature may also be necessary in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
To access the full report, click here.