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Gillian Keegan, the new Social Care Minister, was speaking on the Today programme this morning.

Nick Robinson spoke about the recruitment difficulties in the adult social care sector, reporting the fact that workers are being attracted by higher pay in other industries.

Ms Keegan replied that ”they’re private companies so we don’t set the pay scales”.

To the credit of Mr. Robinson, he pointed out that in effect, she does set the pay scales because it is the government that funds local authorities, and local authorities who pay the invoices of private providers, who then pay their staff.

Ms Keegan ignored the comment, but went on to say that when competing for labour the last thing you want to offer is zero hours contracts. She’s right. But with the prices set by local authorities, private providers have no choice.

So here’s an idea Ms Keegan... Set a floor for prices in home care, perhaps with regional variations. Make sure that floor is sufficiently high to pay for guaranteed hours contracts i.e. build in some slack time. Make it mandatory that visits of less than one hour are charged at pro rata more than the hourly rate.

Job done!

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