United Kingdom Homecare Association
The professional association for homecare providers

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UKHCA Media Release

The State of Homecare Funding in Northern Ireland - 05/01/2016

Homecare services in Northern Ireland are being pushed to the brink of collapse leaving older and disabled people at risk of inadequate care; increasing the number of people left waiting to be discharged from hospital and placing valuable homecare workers at risk of deteriorating terms and conditions of employment, according to leading professional associations UKHCA and IHCP (notes 1 and 2).

Health and Social Care Trusts are placing homecare services delivered by independent and voluntary sector providers at risk by paying far less than the minimum cost to support people’s basic care needs.

These findings come despite Northern Ireland’s “Transforming your care” strategy (note 5), which refers to “Home as the hub of care for older people, with more services provided at home and in the community”, as opposed to having to live in residential homes, or being hospitalised (note 6).

Northern Ireland’s independent and voluntary sector homecare providers deliver over half of all homecare funded by the Trusts, but suffering worse conditions than the rest of the UK – with Northern Ireland bottom of the league for funding homecare, paying an average of under three quarters of the calculated minimum costs to cover care.

The recommended minimum rate for viable homecare services is currently £16.16 per hour, increasing to £16.70 per hour when the new National Living Wage is introduced in April 2016 (note 7). However, when last surveyed, Northern Ireland’s Trusts here payed an average of £11.35 per hour for these vital services, compared with averages across the UK of £13.66 per hour (note 8).

Colin Angel, UKHCA’s Policy and Campaigns Director said:

“These unsustainable rates clearly show that the entire homecare industry faces a crisis, but care providers in Northern Ireland and the people who use their services are the hardest hit in the UK.

“Providers are currently being paid significantly less than the amount required in order to pay workers the national minimum wage while still running safe and effective services beyond the very short-term.

“Northern Ireland’s Trusts must urgently change commissioning practices which undermine homecare services by purchasing rushed and undignified visits and preventing employers paying their workers for the essential services they supply” (note 9).

UKHCA and IHCP note that over recent years Northern Ireland’s Trusts have been driving prices down with little regard to the quality of service or the viability of the organisations that provide it, or employers’ ability to retain over 4,500 careworkers employed by the voluntary and independent sector (note 10).

Both organisations have detected the early signs of a wider market failure, with a number of care providers leaving the market, or declining to deliver care where it has ceased to be viable.

IHCP’s Chief Executive, Pauline Shepherd, said:

“It is ironic that while Northern Ireland’s executive wishes to see more people cared for at home, the Trusts are cutting these services so ruthlessly that the entire industry is under threat.

“These are not just businesses or charities; they are vital services for the many older and disabled people who use them. The risks are obvious – unless this position is addressed even more services could go out of business, with catastrophic consequences for people receiving care.


Notes for Editors

1. United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) is the professional association for more than 2,200 domiciliary care providers in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Its mission, as a member-led professional association, is to promote high quality, sustainable care services so that people can continue to live at home and in their local community.

UKHCA Sutton Business Centre, Restmor Way, Wallington, SM6 7AH. Telephone: 020 8661 8188. Website: Twitter: @ukhca. Registered in England, No. 3083104.

2. Independent Health and Care Providers (IHCP) is a non-profit organisation representing private, voluntary, charitable and church affiliated providers of health and social care in Northern Ireland. IHCP representing approximately 250 homes and care agencies. Its mission is to support providers in delivering quality care services by working in partnership with policy makers, commissioners, and others to provide better care, better services and better value.

Independent Health and Care Providers (IHCP), Fitch Chartered Accountants, 27-29 Gordon Street, Belfast, BT1 2LG. Telephone: 07703 754574. Website: Registered in Northern Ireland, No NI034416.

3. Homecare encompasses provision of personal care, to people in their own homes. For many, homecare is the alternative of choice for people who would otherwise need to move into residential accommodation.

4. Over 24,000 people in Northern Ireland were receiving homecare services during a sample week in 2014.

5. See:

6. DHSSPSNI (2011) “Transforming Your Care: A Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland”. Recommendation 9, page 135.

7. The figure of £16.16 per hour for state-funded homecare has been calculated as a minimum price necessary for homecare providers to comply with the current National Minimum Wage (including careworkers’ travel time and travel costs) and enable the delivery of sustainable homecare services, undertaking all the necessary quality measures required by the Trusts and regulators. The figure of £16.70 per hour takes into account the introduction of the National Living Wage from April 2016. See Angel, C (2015) A Minimum Price for Homecare, version 3.1.

8. UKHCA (2015) The Homecare Deficit: A report on the funding of older people’s homecare across the United Kingdom.

9. The prevalence of short care visits in Northern Ireland relative to other parts of the UK was highlighted in UKHCA’s report “Care is not a commodity”. 28% of all homecare visits in Northern Ireland were 15 minutes or fewer, compared to 10% in England. Providers in Northern Ireland also voiced a higher level of concern about risks to the dignity of people using services 87% in Northern Ireland versus 33% for England). See:

10. In 2013 UKHCA and IHCP released a joint report “Can we trust the trusts?”, which examined cuts in services to older and disabled people in Northern Ireland. See:

11. Interviewees are available for broadcast media are available on request.

12. For all enquiries, please contact:

Nick Garbutt on 07808 052 416 or

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