Headlines: April 15th, 2009

A charity working with people who have learning disabilities wants the Care Quality Commission to be able to inspect the way local authorities buy residential and domiciliary care. Self Unlimited says the level of fees that councils pay for such care is “dangerously low”.

Patrick Wallace, the charity’s chief executive, said some local authorities were not even meeting the actual costs of residential care. Self Unlimited said online tendering was not an acceptable way to commission services because it was solely about price and not quality.

The charity said service users themselves and their families should be involved in any tendering process and it called for the Care Quality Commission to have powers of inspection over local authority purchasing practices.

“It is often the contracted supplier who is sanctioned by CQC, as the regulator, but if price is driven so low by purchasers, surely it is they who are failing older and disabled people,” Mr. Wallace said and added, “We are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain quality levels of service with year-on-year cuts to fee levels.”

The charity said overhead costs were not recognised and human resources, training and financial administration, which all cost money, were important in providing quality service. “Low fee levels will lead some organisations to cut corners, and social services departments must recognise this,” Mr. Wallace said.

Self Unlimited, the operating name of Cottage and Rural Enterprises, supports people with a wide range of needs, offering them homes and training in everyday living as well as occupational skills, activities and opportunities for employment.