A client wears a pink cardigan and she is hugging a blanket. She sits next to a Support Worker in blue dress and dark pigtails.

Fair Funding for Fair Pay

Posted on 10 January 2023

Our Chief Executive, Neil Blanchard, shares a letter he sent last week to Commissioners of our Learning Disability Services across Sussex, as well as relevant Councillors, asking them to support fair funding for fair pay.

Market position update 2023 – Southdown’s Learning Disability services

As we start the New Year, as I have done for the past two years, I write to provide an update on the market position for Southdown’s learning disability services. The aim of this approach is to
ensure that you are fully aware of the challenges facing the care and support sector ahead of finalising fee decisions for the 2023/34 financial year.

About Southdown

We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2022, over the past five decades growing to be one the largest not-for-profit providers of residential learning disability services across Sussex. We work with statutory partners to deliver exceptional community-based support to people with complex health and behavioural needs, with 400 staff supporting 178 clients across 26 registered services.  100% of our learning disability services are assessed as ‘Good’ by CQC.

In addition to our learning disability activities, we are a registered provider of social housing to 575 tenants and deliver community-based housing and mental health support services to a further
12,000 clients.

Although passionate about continuing to provide exceptional learning disability care and support services, for the past seven years these activities have operated in financial deficit. To counter this, our Board have agreed a clear lobbying and negotiating strategy to move the activities into a longer-term sustainable position. Although some positive progress has been made over the past two years though obtaining fee increases to placements, we yet again enter a new financial year from April 2023 with even greater challenges.

External financial pressures

▪ CPI at 10.7% (Nov 2022)
▪ Real Living Wage increased from £9.90 to £10.90 (10.1%) from September 2022
▪ National Living Wage due to increase from £9.50 to £10.42 (9.68%) from April 23
▪ Bank of England interest rate 3.5% (Nov 2022)
▪ Utility cost inflation – although Southdown’s current fixed term utility tariffs end Sept 2023, current renewal quotes are 300% (£600K) higher
▪ Insurance cost inflation – Southdown’s premiums haven risen by 160% (£156k) since 2021

Internal factors and indicators

▪ Ageing workforce with 60% of our care staff aged 40-67
▪ 23.5% annual staff turnover for learning disability services, 21% for staff with under a years’ service
▪ On average, a single applicant per learning disability support worker role advertised
▪ Staff arriving with lower skills and experience requiring increased cost for induction and training
▪ Staff sickness increased to 5% (including impact of Covid absences)
▪ Staff vacancy rates of 16%, necessitating additional costs for overtime and agency cover (predicted to be £800k above budget by year-end)
▪ Holding higher placement vacancies at 7.9% due to delays in referrals, agreeing placements and recruiting staff

Fair funding

Based on the factors above, we are supporting the Registered Care Association (RCA) request for a 10.15% uplift for learning disability care home and supported living fees for 2023/24.

As stated, our Board have agreed a lobbying and negotiating strategy, with clear actions established where funding for specific services no longer covers costs and places the overall sustainability of the organisation at risk. Over the past two years, for specific locations, this has unfortunately resulted in the ending of individual client placements and/or service closures.

Southdown are not alone in having to adopt such financial recovery plans, with a well-documented example being Leonard Cheshire (disability charity evicts residents due to chronic
underfunding of services

Working together to resolve complex issues

As local strategic partner, we are committed to work with stakeholders to find solutions to the current challenges we all face. During 2022 I had many positive conversations with commissioners and local councilors to discuss wider issues and myself and Southdown will continue to play a constructive and leading role at system level to consider collaborative ways to protect the learning disabilities provider market. I am particularly keen to ensure that funding enables care staff to be paid fairly for the skilled roles they undertake.

I ask that in your specific role and area of responsibility you actively support and advocate for fair funding in 2023/24, with fees increased to cover the extreme cost inflation we now face. If you wish to discuss any issues in more detail, including joint way of working, please do not hesitate to make contact.

Yours sincerely, Neil Blanchard, Chief Executive 
CC; Pauline Ford, Board Chair, Southdown


To find out more about our Learning Disability Support services, please visit this page.