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New plans to improve the quality of social care by restricting the use of zero-hour contracts, and ensuring employers pay domiciliary care workers the national minimum wage have been unveiled by the Welsh Government.
The proposals have been put forward as research has found a link between employment terms and conditions and the quality of care delivered.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford suggested that sustainable social care was dependent on a stable workforce. He said: "I am very aware of the significant variations in the workforce and the consequences of this for the quality of care. These matters are particularly acute in domiciliary care.
"The consultation being launched today sets out a range of measures the Welsh Government could take to improve the quality of domiciliary care in Wales by having a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers."
Domiciliary care workers support people who live at home. At present there are an estimated 19,500 domiciliary care workers in Wales, delivering around 260,000 hours of care a week to 23,000 people. The domiciliary care sector has a turnover of around 32 per cent and a vacancy rate of 6 per cent.
In July 2015, Mr Drakeford commissioned research into factors which affect the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers and how these impact the quality of domiciliary care.
The interim findings of the research, conducted by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Business School, show there is a clear relationship between domiciliary care employment terms and conditions and the quality of care provided.
In response, the Welsh Government is launching a consultation on potential actions to improve the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers in Wales.
The proposals, which have been informed by the research, include:
• Limiting the use of zero-hours contracts by restricting the number of care hours or the percentage of care hours which domiciliary care providers can deliver by zero-hours contracts;
• Making sure employers pay domiciliary care workers the national minimum wage by ensuring Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales carries out checks as part of the inspection process;
• Prevent call clipping, a process where calls are systematically cut short as care workers either do not have enough or any time to travel between calls, by making sure care providers pay domiciliary care workers for the time spent travelling to their clients and the time they spend with their clients.
The Health Minister has also suggested that the rise in minimum wage over the next few years could place financial pressures on the sector.
“The Welsh Government wants to understand the impact of its proposals on the sustainability and viability of care provision. But ultimately everyone in the sector agrees that social care should be a positive and rewarding career option. That’s the way to get better care and better results for people,” he said.
The consultation builds on Sustainable Social Services and new social care legislation passed by the National Assembly to improve the quality and effectiveness of social care.
The consultation will close on 5 April 2016.