Lease electric cars to rural care workers, UK climate charity says | Care workers

Care workers

Possible charity highlights financial savings and environmental benefits for low-paid staff

Mon 1 Apr 2024 11.23 CEST

Ministers should consider a social leasing scheme for care workers in rural areas across the UK to use electric cars, a climate charity has argued, saying this would save often low-paid staff large sums, while bringing a big environmental boost.

A focus group of carers in rural and semi-rural parts of the UK, carried out as part of the study, found that one woman earning less than £20,000 a year as a mobile carer drove four hours a day on average, spending £100-£150 a month on petrol.

A wider poll of 122 home care workers showed 30% spent £150 or more on fuel a month, and half spending at least £100, with nearly a third saying they had considered giving up their car over the last three years, mainly due to costs.

While carers can often claim mileage costs for travel between clients, some of those surveyed for the study, by the climate charity Possible, said they could not do this, or could only claim if they were taking a client in the car.

Others said the mileage rates nowhere near covered the costs of running a car, especially when non-fuel costs such as maintenance and repairs were taken into account. Of the 122 people surveyed, only three said they were able to claim for extra expenses.

The report, compiled with help from the Care Workers’ Charity, noted that such financial pressures appeared to be one of the reasons behind the difficulties care operators had in finding and retaining staff.

Earlier research by the Homecare Association, which represents care providers, found that of 627 providers surveyed, nearly half said staff had left or were planning to leave because they could not afford fuel costs.

Using statistics for average mileage in the sector, the report calculated that care home staff could save up to £500 or more a year just on driving for work, with the amount depending on which electricity tariff they could use.

Given the high upfront costs of electric cars, the charity is recommending that ministers consider a social leasing plan, in which the government acts as a guarantor, with the scheme targeted at the lowest-paid, highest-mileage care staff.

This should, the report argues, be rolled out along with measures to help recipients with charging points at home, another significant barrier in switching to an electric car.

France has previously introduced social leasing for electric cars, allowing low-income households to use one for under £90 a month, including insurance and maintenance – although this was so popular it has now been paused.

The NHS has a vehicle leasing scheme, but this is only available to staff on salaries, not contractors.

The report added that such a plan would have significant environmental benefits, saying the UK’s home care workers account for 4m miles driven every day, and that many rural staff are in the top 90th-95th percentile of drivers by mileage.

Sophie Tracey: a care worker in Solihull, West Midlands

I love my job as a carer. Being able to meet people from all walks of life and hear their stories is amazing. I’m out and about all the time, and no two days are the same. I mostly look after the elderly, including many clients with dementia or Alzheimer’s. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s rewarding to do work which makes a real difference in other people’s lives.

Of course, being a carer isn’t easy. It’s hard work: physically demanding, emotionally draining and really busy. I work long hours, from 7am to 9pm, with a break for lunch. For many carers, work can be insecure, the pay isn’t great unless you put the hours in, and the cost of living crisis is bearing down on all of us.

One of my biggest monthly costs is my car. Here in Solihull, there’s no way I could do my job without it. I usually make 20 visits a day, and that means I could be driving up to 60 miles, going in and out from the city to the countryside. Each person you look after needs you to be there on time, and there’s no way I could do it by public transport.

With the mileage I’m doing, and petrol costs what they are, I could be spending £300 a month on my car. My company can’t cover the costs of soaring prices. I get 45p a mile, which isn’t keeping up with the cost of fuel, and it doesn’t take being stuck in traffic into account.

I’ve heard that electric cars can be much cheaper to run, especially if you can get a charge point at home. I worry about the climate, too: if I have kids, what’s their future going to be like? Having an electric car would be cheaper for me, and better for the planet. But they’re out of reach at the moment. I can’t afford one outright, and there aren’t loans that would be suitable for me.

If I could lease an electric car from the government at a good rate, I definitely would. Especially since plugging in my car rather than going to the petrol station could save me a lot of money month on month. It’s a win-win. They should absolutely bring in this scheme to help workers like me get around in greener ways. That way I can care for the climate, as well as my clients.