Fall in inspections raises fears over abuse


A sharp drop in inspections by the social care regulator has raised concerns that the impact of public sector spending cuts could make it harder to detect abuse in disabled people’s homes and residential facilities.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out just 2,148 inspections of adult social care facilities in the six months to March 2011 – according to figures obtained by the magazine Community Care – compared with 6,840 from April to September 2009.

CQC said the drop was “largely” due to the need to register health and social care providers under its new regulatory system, which began to have an impact in the second half of 2009-10.

A fall in inspections of care homes, agencies providing care in disabled people’s own homes, and other social care providers could make it harder for CQC to detect problems such as neglect and physical, financial and sexual abuse.

Although the number of monthly inspections has now begun rising again, from just 41 last October to 518 in both February and March 2011, CQC said it was “too early to predict at what level inspections will settle”.

Andrew Lee, director of People First (Self-Advocacy), a disabled people’s organisation run by people with learning difficulties, said he was concerned by the fall in inspections, which he said would reduce the chances of stopping abuse.

He said: “If there is less inspection there is less opportunity to find out if there are problems and how they can solve it.”

The new figures raise further concerns about CQC’s new “risk-based” system of regulation, under which social care providers produce their own written self-assessments, while CQC gathers evidence from other sources and focuses on providers where there is evidence of concerns.

CQC has said there will be a “planned review” of every provider “at least every two years”, but this might not involve an actual inspection visit, while there have been claims that some care homes that appear good on paper could avoid an inspection for up to five years.

There are concerns that the new system has been driven largely by the need to cut costs.

A CQC spokesman said: “Like other public sector organisations, we accept that CQC has to do more with less; that we have to work with fewer resources than were available in the past.

“We believe we have the right level of resources to deliver this risk-based model, although it is still early days and we will learn more over time.”

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are confident that CQC receives the funding it needs to fulfil its regulatory duties and provide an assurance of safe, quality care.”

5 May 2011