New government proposals to “shake up” the scrutiny of adult social care have failed to mask growing concerns that the coalition is planning to postpone the long-awaited reform of care and support funding.
Paul Burstow, the Liberal Democrat care services minister, this week announced “radical new ideas” for “shaking up the system” of identifying quality care and exposing poor services.
But his announcement came in the same week that fresh reports warned of delays to funding reform, with the chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, Jeremy Hughes, suggesting that it could be 2025 before all of the necessary reforms were fully introduced.
Burstow said he wanted to introduce a new online ratings system for services such as residential homes and home care providers.
Each entry on the website would include information from official Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections but would also feature feedback from service-users and relatives, and any records of mistreatment or abuse by staff.
Burstow also sketched out plans for members of the public to take part in informal inspections of care services carried out by local branches of HealthWatch, which will launch next October as the new independent “consumer champion” on social care and health.
Burstow said the two ideas had come from service-users, and added: “Measures like publishing social care comparison sites and opening care services up to greater scrutiny will revolutionise the way people and their loved ones choose their social care.
“It can’t be right that you can find out exactly what a hotel or restaurant is like, in just a short time searching the web, but people have so much trouble working out the standards of different care homes and home care providers – when that choice is so much more important.”
Further details will be included in the government’s adult social care white paper this spring.
Sue Bott, director of the National Centre for Independent Living, pointed out that the plans were not completely fresh, with current and former service-users already taking part in CQC inspections through the Experts by Experience programme.
She said: “If these proposals are going to build on the good things that are happening already, like Experts by Experience, then of course we would be delighted, but we would have to see the detail of what is being proposed.”
And she said CQC had previously published its own ratings system – with services awarded between zero and three stars – which “people did value”, before it was scrapped last year.
Again, she welcomed the idea floated by Burstow but said it would be important to see the details of any proposals.
She also joined other leading figures in raising new fears that care funding reform was set to be further delayed.
Disability News Service has been raising concerns since the summer that next spring’s social care white paper will not include long-awaited reforms to care and support funding.
Andrew Dilnot, who led the coalition’s commission on the funding of care and support, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this week that delaying the completion of funding reforms until 2025 would be “completely unacceptable”, while any delay beyond next Easter in the government publishing its plans would be “a betrayal of people’s trust”.
Bott said: “The white paper is one thing, but legislation is what we really need. It is action we need now because people’s lives are being severely affected by what is happening, with some people experiencing cuts [to their support]of the order of 20 per cent.”
She said disabled people, social care professionals and local authority staff had now been “consulted to death”, and added: “We are looking for a timetable for change and that is not what we are getting.”
15 December 2011