Christmas is now a distant memory, and even the New Year seems a distant memory as we all struggle back to work after hopefully a pleasant and relaxing rest. Time now to focus on what may be in store for us this year.

Of course some of it we know about;

Increase in staff wages. For some employers contribution into a pension scheme. The change in the name of the National Minimum wage to the National Living wage. Whilst SECHA members do not pretend to be economists, we do by and large run our own businesses and contribute in no small way to the local and national economy. We understand the laws of supply and demand, understand budgets and the consequences of income versus expenditure. We can also read and understand a balance sheet and understand concepts such as market forces and the need to change our organisation when it is threatened. Also the need to take advantage of opportunities when they come by.

So as wage costs increase by 10% or more, is that going to be passed on to the consumer? Of course this does not just apply to the care industry. What about the retail industry, factories, the security industry, pubs, restaurants and clubs, supermarkets, even those who pride themselves on paying more than the minimum wage. Will they also be paying more than the living wage? Will shareholders be prepared to take a drop in their dividend for the next couple of years to facilitate higher pay for their staff?

No. It does not take an economist to know that the costs will be passed on to the customer. Will that fuel inflation? However there are those that believe some inflation is good for the country. How will that then effect the living wage or will inflation eat into the initial pay rise to reduce it back to the level of the old minimum wage? How is that going to help our carers who will still be paid the least this country can legally pay them?

The employer`s contribution of 1% to the pension pot will be the beginning and that will increase to what? SECHA believes it may eventually be as high as 6%!

Of course this brings challenges to the public bodies who by their nature have difficulty in reacting to market forces. With shrinking budgets and cost pressures for their suppliers, the public bodies need to take the lead in the challenges. Efficiency savings are a thing of the past. The excuse that budgets can be cut without if effecting frontline services no longer is believable.

The public bodies must act boldly this year. They must be guided by their political masters but in turn they must also take bold decisions, they must have the appetite to say and do what needs to be done.

SECHA will support those bold decisions. However it ultimately will not be our members who will suffer, it will be the old, the frail and the vulnerable who will lose out and be let down. It will be their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, who will be asking the great and the good who take the decisions simple questions;

“Why have you let us down? Why did you not take the right decisions when you were in the position to do so?”