The cost of overnight expenses and meal allowances claimed by councillors can be twice what local authorities pay in care home fees for vulnerable people, it’s been revealed.
The figures have come to light following an investigation by Care Forum Wales, the body that represents nearly 500 social care providers.
If they’re away on official business, councillors can claim £95 a night for overnight accommodation and £28 for meals, making a total of £123.
Care Forum Wales has compiled a list of the latest fees paid by local authorities for residential and nursing care in Wales.
The rate per night paid by local authorities for residential care varies between £60.57 in Powys to £80.81 in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Councillors can also claim travelling expenses, including 5p mile for car passengers and 20p a mile for those using a bicycle.
In addition, they can receive up to £403 a month for the cost of providing care for children, elderly or disabled relatives while they’re on council business.
According to Care Forum Wales, there was a “curious disparity that some might see as a case of double standards” and they urged the newly-elected councillors to review care home fees “on the basis of fairness”.
Senior Policy Advisor Mary Wimbury said: “We certainly don’t begrudge councillors the right to claim legitimate expenses while on official duties. Far from it. Councillors do an important job and they must be properly reimbursed and supported.
“But it seems only fair that as a society we provide a similar adequate level of funding for social care for the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“The issue is simply about what is fair and appropriate. With the 22 new councils in place, we have an opportunity to make things fairer for everybody, not least those who receive and provide social care in Wales.
“It seems to me only right that a councillor, who has expenses quite properly to deal with council business, should not be having more than it pays for a profoundly frail older person who has been assessed as needing that care.
“Councillors are reimbursed for real costs and the point we would make is that social care providers are also having to deal with very real costs.
“Nursing care involves paying a nurse to be on the premises 24./7 and staff will need to help, dressing, washing and sometimes moving and feeding residents as well as dealing with incontinence.. This level of care is way above and beyond the cost of accommodation and food for a councillor.
“We believe this would be a good time to reflect on our priorities as a society, especially as we all accept that social care is a sector of national strategic importance which underpins the NHS, the economy and communities across Wales.
“As things are the cost of accommodation and a meal for a councillor can be double what is paid in residential care and significantly more than what is paid for nursing care.
“The late announcement of some fee levels has also put pressure on providers in a number of ways, not least the fact they have had to pay minimum pay increases from the beginning of April and need to set budgets for the year, including pay increases for other staff.
“We have surely got our priorities wrong and something needs to change because local authorities have looked after their elected members first and foremost.
“You could not reasonably expect registered providers to continue to provide the sort of enhanced care services required under the Social Care and Wellbeing Act for less than some elected councillor gets for one night’s stay.
“There are those who suggest the current system is functional and not at tipping point but the evidence paints a different picture and toolkit models used by local authorities for setting fees condemn social care workers to being amongst the lowest paid in Wales.
“Working within the fees set by local authorities, the wages in social care are being pushed below the base rate of going to work at your local Aldi or Lidl.
“As social care has been designated as a sector of national strategic importance by the Welsh Government, we are calling on councillors to have another look at this issue and Welsh Government to support that. At the end of the day, it is a matter of basic fairness and what is right and proper.”
|Local Authority for
|Residential for 24 hours
|Residential EMH for 24 hours
|Nursing for 24 hours
|Nursing EMI for 24 hours
|Neath Port Talbot
|Newport (average fees)*
|Powys (average fees)*
|Rhondda Cynon Taff^
|Vale of Glamorgan