The care watchdog wants to use government funds to subsidise a discredited US outsourcing giant’s plans to slash the pay of disabled expert advisors by more than half.
Two of three new contracts to run the Experts by Experience (EbE) programme have been awarded to Remploy, the formerly government-owned disability employment business which is now mostly owned by the scandal-hit US company Maximus.
The Experts, who all have experience of using care services themselves, are currently paid more than £17 an hour to take part in CQC inspections of health and care facilities, but many were furious when they discovered that Remploy/Maximus plans to cut their pay to just £8.25 per hour (or £9.40 in London) when it takes over the two contracts from 1 February.
Stung by the reaction to those revelations by Disability News Service (DNS), the government-funded watchdog has now – according to Remploy – pledged to subsidise it for the first six months of its contract.
DNS has seen an email from a senior Remploy manager, in which she says that CQC will pay a “buffer” for any existing Experts who have carried out an inspection in the last six months.
This “buffer” will only apply for the number of hours they have worked in the previous six months.
This means that if they had carried out 50 hours of inspection work for CQC in the last six months, CQC would ensure they received £15 an hour for the first 50 hours of their work for Remploy/Maximus.
After that, they will receive the new pay rate of £8.25 an hour, which will be just £1.05 above the new minimum wage – termed the “national living wage” by the government – to be introduced in April.
One Expert* said it was “abhorrent” that CQC had now been forced to subsidise the two contracts after awarding them to a “ruthless American outsourcer” that was set to make millions of pounds from running Experts by Experience.
He said he believed the decision had been taken because of the risk of a “mass exodus” of Experts if their pay was halved, while the way the negotiations had been dealt with “fits perfectly with the model of the American capitalist toxic giant Maximus”.
Another Expert* said such a subsidy from CQC would be adding “insult to injury”, but did not disguise the fact that many Experts were to be paid not much more than the minimum wage, which “completely devalues the individual’s experience, skills and knowledge”.
Remploy/Maximus refused to comment on the email, other than to say: “Discussions with CQC are continuing and nothing has been decided.”
Despite repeated promises to comment, CQC had not done so by noon today (28 January).
Every month, more than 500 experts are sent on CQC inspections across adult social care, primary care and hospitals, and by the end of 2016 the watchdog plans to double that to 950 a month.
Currently, more than 50 per cent of inspections involve Experts by Experience, and CQC wants that to increase to up to 80 per cent in some areas of its work in the next two years.
*They have asked not to be identified