Quality of care homes divides frontline and managers

Frontline professionals have far more negative views of residential care than their managers, exclusive Community Care research has revealed.

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Frontline professionals have far more negative views of residential care than their managers, exclusive Community Care research has revealed.

More than 70% of social workers said the care homes in their area failed to provide a high-quality service, while 65% of managers said they did, our survey of 114 staff found.

The findings prompted BASW – The College of Social Work to accuse managers of being disconnected from the frontline. “Social workers see the care homes on a regular basis while the managers will have less experience of that,” said Ruth Cartwright, joint manager for England.

Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, added: “The findings reflect the discrepancy between the decisions about commissioning, which are increasingly determined by cost issues, and quality.”

But the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said the Care Quality Commission’s monitoring of residential care homes had found standards rising consistently for several years.

“Their data, based on validated assessment techniques, gives a truer picture of the contribution made by all sectors to offering quality care to older people and people with disabilities,” said an Adass spokesperson.

Des Kelly, executive director of provider umbrella body the National Care Forum, said social workers held a negative view of care homes. “I think they look for the things that are going wrong,” he said.

The survey also found that 69% of social workers felt care homes should not be run by profit-making companies, while 72% of managers said this was appropriate. Most homes are privately-run.

Kelly, whose organisation represents not-for profit providers, said there needed to be more balance in the sector, citing US and Australia where not-for-profit providers had a larger role.

But Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Association, said market forces had led to the proliferation of private companies running homes and it was unrealistic to expect this to change.

The findings follow concerns that falls in council income have put many homes in financial peril and government intervention over the future of the country’s largest residential care provider, Southern Cross Healthcare.

Southern Cross is seeking to negotiate down the rents on the care homes it leases after last month declaring them to be “unsustainable”.

DIFFERING VIEWS FROM THE SURVEY

● “Where competition is driven by financial considerations it drives down quality.” Local authority social worker

● “I know of several care homes in my area that provide person-centred excellent care.” Manager in a not-for-profit organisation

● “There are some superb homes, others that are not even fit to put a dog in and the whole spectrum of possibilities in between.” Local authority social worker

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