Councils could face snap inspections

    The government may instruct the Commission for Social Care
    Inspection to carry out snap inspections of councils if providers
    complain about fees, at a time when the CSCI is trying to cut
    regulation and faces financial uncertainty.

    Health minister Stephen Ladyman told care providers that the
    CSCI should act on their complaints about low fees for care by
    inspecting how councils commissioned services.

    He told this week’s annual long-term care for older people
    conference: “If you say to the CSCI you are being hammered on
    price, the CSCI has the power to inspect the council.

    “In my view they should immediately go and inspect the council’s
    commissioning processes and work out whether the council has a
    commissioning system that provides a fair rate for care.”

    His comments call into question the CSCI’s commitment to cut the
    burden of regulation on both councils and providers and make
    inspection proportionate to risk.

    Despite a number of comments from providers about low fees, the
    conference heard fee inflation levels had risen significantly since
    2000, doubling in the case of non-nursing care homes from 4 per
    cent to 8 per cent per year. However, Laing & Buisson director
    William Laing, who presented the figures, suggested the trend was
    unlikely to continue.

    Meanwhile, the CSCI was due to decide this week on a contingency
    plan should the Department of Health fail to improve on its
    provisional 2005-6 budget of £143.6m.

    With three weeks to go until the start of the financial year,
    the DoH has still not told CSCI what its final grant will be but
    told it to set an “operating cost target” of £143.6m, against
    projected costs of £152m.

    The contingency plan to cover the £8.4m shortfall would
    include slashing staff costs by £3.9m.

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