Holes in funding may be exposed by ratings for adult care providers

Star ratings for England’s 25,000 adult care providers could expose the shortfall in money needed to deliver the government’s ambitions for services, the Commission for Social Care Inspection has said.

CSCI head of methodology Anni Hartley-Walder said the ratings, issued for consultation this week, might show a link between council funding for providers and quality, adding weight to providers’ claims that authorities underfund them.

It would also support the view of councils that the government is underfunding social care, particularly as the proposed ratings are based on the seven outcomes in the health and social care white paper.

With councils rated against the same outcomes from 2006-7, they will in part be performance-assessed on how well the services they commission do in the quality ratings.

Hartley-Walder said: “We know high fees do not necessarily equate to the best services but there may be a relationship between fees and the recruitment and retention of staff.”

However, the ratings, under which providers would receive one (poor), two (adequate), three (good) or four (excellent) stars, would only come into being next April and would therefore have scant impact on next summer’s comprehensive spending review.

English Community Care Association chief executive Martin Green warned that councils would not respond to quality ratings by raising fees to providers unless they faced penalties for not doing so.

Though the proposals apply to adult services, last week’s Department for Education and Skills paper on the future regulation of children’s providers said a quality rating system would apply there too, to determine inspection frequency.

How the new system will work

  • From April 2007, all adult care providers will receive a rating after each comprehensive “key” inspection.
  • Ratings will be based on the seven white paper outcomes with an eighth on leadership, and will determine the frequency of key inspections.
  • Performance on providing dignity will carry most weight, followed by improving health and well-being and leadership.
  • The best providers will be rated only once every three years. During this time, their services will receive an annual review.

    Further information
    Inspecting for Better Lives: A Quality Future
    Consultation closes on 14 November.

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