Service users and family carers whose expertise is used by the Care Quality Commission on inspections of care homes and hospitals face their pay being halved.
Two of three regional contracts to recruit people to the CQC’s Experts by Experience programme have been awarded to Remploy. The company plans to pay the experts £8.25 per hour (or £9.40 in London), down from the current hourly rate of £17.
The changes, first revealed by Disability News Service, are due to take effect on 1 February.
The CQC said around 300 experts by experience, which include people with physical or learning disabilities, mental health conditions and carers, currently take part in inspections each month. The regulator plans to expand the programme to use more than 1,000 experts some months, insisting their input is “vital”.
Anger over move
Experts by experience say that claim is undermined by the CQC agreeing contracts that will see their pay for inspections slashed.
One told Community Care: “People are furious because firstly the communication has been really poor around this. Secondly, CQC has always said how important experts are to their inspections. Now it feels we’re not important enough to pay us decent money.
“The Experts by Experience programme absolutely works. I really back it but there has to be some equity between the value CQC is saying this programme has to them and what is being proposed for people here. It’s just the principle of treating people fairly and with a bit of dignity.”
The CQC does not employ experts by experience directly. Instead it contracts supplier organisations to recruit and support service users and carers who want to advise on inspections.
After a tendering exercise, Remploy, which is mostly owned by US firm Maximus, won the contracts to oversee the programme in the north, south and London regions.
The contract for the central region was awarded to the charity Choice Support, one of five providers currently running the programme.
The CQC said any decisions about terms and conditions for experts by experience were the responsibility of supplier organisations.
The regulator said it was currently restricted in what it could say about the deals due to “commercial sensitivity” but insisted it was committed to transparency and would publish details of the contracts in mid-February.
Experts ‘vital’ to inspections
Chris Day, the CQC’s director of engagement, said: “Experts by experience are vital to CQC’s inspections and many other parts of its work.
“The cost of contracts with our new suppliers, Choice Support and Remploy Ltd, is £7 million per year and demonstrates our increased strategic and financial commitment to this programme of work”.
Remploy said the level of pay was set after discussions with user-led groups who will help deliver the expert by experience programme.
A spokesperson for the company said: “User-led organisations will deliver the majority of the contract, supported by Remploy. Service users are at the heart of the programme and will be involved continuously in the development and improvement of the programme.
“The contract was awarded after a competitive tendering process and commences on 1 February. We are confident that we will be able to engage with sufficient numbers of Experts by Experience to successfully deliver the contract.”