The English Community Care Association has warned a new care calculator designed to fairly price residential learning disability services should not be used to drive down costs.
The calculator – a spreadsheet-based tool – is expected to help providers and commissioners negotiate service prices by costing individual needs more accurately through benchmarked prices.
It was launched last week by the nine Regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnerships – networks of councils and other organisations designed to promote value for money in local government.
In a statement, the RIEPs said the calculator would help tackle the huge variations in the costs of care home and supported living placements, which it said ranged from £400 to £4,000 a week.
Emphasis on savings for councils
However, the statement emphasised the potential of the calculator to cut costs for councils, adding: “Earlier versions of the tool have proven to be a success in the South East and South West with councils saving an average of 13% on their costs.”
ECCA, which represents independent care homes, said it would monitor the use of the calculator to ensure its learning disability members were treated fairly. It said : “There should be no assumption that a wholesale fall in fees will result from the use of this new calculator or, indeed, artificial targets for cost reduction set.”
James Churchill, chief executive of the Association for Real Change, which represents learning disability providers, said it was “disappointed” by the focus on the 13% saving from the RIEPs.
Calculator should not set maximum price
ARC’s members have fed in to the development of the calculator, and Churchill added: “We have sought and obtained assurances in the past that it will be used as a guide, not as a device for producing an automatic maximum price.”
He added that it should be used to increase prices set by councils where these were found to be too low.
The calculator’s launch comes amid warnings from ECCA over sub-inflationary fee increases for providers by councils, which it has said is affecting increasing numbers of organisations.
However, Joyce Redfearn, chair of the RIEPs’ chief executives’ task force, said: “This is about making sure that we get high quality outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The calculator makes a complex process much more transparent for service users and, their care providers and commissioning staff.”
The calculator has so far been trialled in over 70 council areas.