Poor working conditions and low pay in home care are leading to the breaching of elderly people's human rights, a trailblazing inquiry has found.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission's inquiry into older people and human rights in home care - the first of its kind on the issue - unearthed severe failings in treatment and the way local councils commission care.
Nearly 500,000 older people receive essential care in their own home paid for wholly or partly by their local authority.
But the EHRC found local authorities focused too much on price when commissioning and urged them to ensure workers, who are often recruited thorugh external agencies, are paid the minimum wage.
The focus has led to a devalued workforce giving poor quality care, while the human rights of elderly people to be protected from receiving inhuman or degrading treatment are forgotten.
Unison head of local government Heather Wakefield said: "Local councils are suffering from dreadful cuts but this can never be an excuse for the kind of reckless commissioning that we continue to see in homecare.
"We know that more than 150,000 homecare workers are regularly paid below the National Minimum Wage and the EHRC has clearly demonstrated to councils that exploitative employment conditions for workers contribute to unsafe and humiliating care for clients.
"So it is a dereliction of duty for councils to commission homecare and pay no regard to whether providers are paying at least the legal minimum."
She added that the public should have the right to see whether the rate their council pays providers covers elements such as travel time and training that are needed to provide safe and reliable care.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the EHRC report "shows that poverty pay leads to poor care," "saps motivation and morale" and "sends the message that the job does not matter."
She added: "It's time to value care workers by paying the living wage, stamping out abusive zero-hours contracts and providing proper training and support. In particular the scandal that staff are not paid for travel between clients should be outlawed as an abuse of the minimum wage."
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