SOCIAL care staff at a charity in East Lancashire have criticised Lancashire County Council over its decision to push ahead with pay cuts for overnight ‘sleep-in’ shifts agreed last year.

Support workers at Alternative Futures are furious that the council has scrapped its ‘top-up’ rate on top of their wage.

Last summer, county councillors agreed a package of social care funding cuts that would end ‘top-up’ support from the beginning of April this year.

The key workers are now earning around £45 for these shifts – or just £5 per hour – to stay overnight with service users who have a range of physical and mental health issues.

Matt Ashworth, a support worker in Burnley, said: “I just want them to continue paying us what they were before and just have a bit of a heart.

“It makes me feel like I’m worthless. I’m away from my family all the time, even more now with the coronavirus.

“I can refuse to work but I love my job, and I love the people that I support, I feel I’ve got a duty to them and can’t let them down.”

The pay cut amounts to losing up to £150 every month for the overnight shifts.

Although the rate is supposed to pay for shifts where workers are asleep, the staff say it is rarely the case and are often disturbed multiple times during the night.

Rebecca Jackson, a support worker in Oswaldtwistle, said: “People think it’s just a case of being paid to go to bed, but it’s really not.

“When they say they’re ready for bed you’ve got to do sleep medications, you’ve got to do personal care like pad changes for people who are incontinent and you’ve got to make sure that there’s nothing unsafe around during the night.

“Meanwhile the council don’t even know who we are. I think it’s because they can’t see us and that’s why they don’t care.”

The staff are backed by the charity’s chief executive, Ian Pritchard, who told the Lancashire Telegraph the cuts were a “direct result” of austerity over the years.

He said: “We sympathise and agree with our support workers that LCC should not be reducing care fees that reduces pay for dedicated and committed key workers.

“No council should be reducing fees at any time, in fact they should be significantly increasing funding year on year, above national minimum wage increases.

“This would allow providers to invest in staff and services in recognition of the skilled, compassionate and caring job they do.”

Responding to the comments, a spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “These payments are given to staff who are asleep, but may be woken to provide occasional support to people overnight.

“If they are woken up and have to perform duties, they get paid for that in addition to the flat-rate sleeping payment.

“We worked with providers to introduce a flat rate payment last year and, to give them time to adjust to the change, agreed to its phased introduction until April this year.

“This was all agreed well before the current coronavirus crisis following a successful appeal by national charity Mencap, but we would urge any care provider to contact us if it will cause them financial difficulties as we have promised to do all we can to support them during this emergency.”