Anger as CQC confirms fee hike with three days’ notice

Adult social care providers have lambasted the Care Quality Commission's decision to confirm a £6m hike in registration fees with just three days' notice.

Adult social care providers have lambasted the Care Quality Commission’s decision to confirm a £6m hike in registration fees with just three days’ notice.

Fees for care providers will go up on 1 April, the CQC confirmed yesterday, with two-thirds of services expected to face a rise in their regulatory costs.

“I can hardly believe that this announcement has been made today and will be implemented in just three days,” said Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association.

The CQC issued proposals to raise fees by £3.3m last October, though this was later revised upwards to £5.4m. The finalised plans have changed a little from the consultative proposals.

“How can any care provider properly plan their business strategy when its own regulator fails to give any adequate notice of a rise in regulatory fee levels, which, for some providers, could be thousands of pounds?” said Ahmed.

She argued that financial pressures from councils for providers to reduce their costs meant the CQC should keep fees at current levels to provide providers with stability.

Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, said the rise was unjustified because the CQC had performed so poorly.

“It is taking a minimum 120 days to register a care service and the star rating scheme has been abolished,” he said. “The CQC should be compensating service users and providers for the huge loss of earnings and disrupted lives their incompetence is causing, instead of raising their fees.”

The CQC is moving towards recovering its full regulatory costs from fees. It said fee rises this year would allow it to recover 64% of its costs, compared with 55% last year across all its activities in health and social care. However, the new scheme should allow 98% of adult social care costs to be recovered.

The CQC plans to divide providers into bands to calculate their fee rate; care home providers have their fees calculated on the number of beds they provide, while non-residential providers face a flat rate for each location they operate.

“Our approach to fees is based on fairness and on raising only as much income as we need to cover the costs of regulation,” said CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower. “We have listened to what providers told us during the consultation and have made changes to address concerns.”

Changes to the consultative proposals include a new lower band for care homes with up to three beds, which will now pay fees of £250 as opposed to £650 in the original proposals. However, rises £100 higher than proposed will apply to care homes with more than 41 beds.

The new fees will not include the cost of an excellence rating scheme set to replace the star ratings system the CQC scrapped last autumn, further angering providers.

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