‘No evidence’ to warrant CQC inspection of local authorities, says minister

Local government minister says councils have been effective in procuring care services, despite concerns over short home care visits

There is currently ‘no evidence’ of commissioning malpractice in councils that would warrant inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a minister has said.

Local government minister, Kris Hopkins, said that councils had been effective in procuring care services and local taxpayers would thank them for keeping care costs under control.

His comments come in the face of longstanding concerns from providers, unions and older and disabled people’s charities about the quality of council commissioning, particularly through the procurement of short home care visits.

Hopkins was speaking in response to a parliamentary question, which asked if the CQC would be given the power to inspect council commissioning even when no specific complaint had been made.

The previous duty on the CQC to assess adult social services departments was removed in 2014 through the Care Act. The regulator can now only inspect councils in exceptional circumstances and with government approval.

In his response to Alex Cunningham, Hopkins said: “I am not aware of any evidence that would constitute the kinds of exceptional circumstances that would warrant deployment of this power.”

He added that where there was evidence of poor commissioning practice, councils were expected to take responsibility for improving performance themselves and intervention from the regulator should be considered only as a last resort.

Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director at the UK Homecare Association, said he was extremely surprised at the minister’s response.

“There is overwhelming evidence on the impact of low fee rates on the terms and conditions of the social care workforce and the commissioning of very short homecare visits have received particular focus,” he said.

Angel referred to comments from care minister Norman Lamb made to The Daily Telegraph, in which he called for councils to be inspected over short home care visits but said his plans were being blocked by communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles.

“Given that the social care minister is also calling for greater scrutiny by the independent regulator, these powers need to be invoked urgently,” said Angel. “The CQC also need the power to undertake assessment of commissioning practices routinely, which they are not currently permitted to do.”

*This article was amended on 29 February 2016 to clarify Care Act guidance on CQC inspections of local authorities.


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4 Responses to ‘No evidence’ to warrant CQC inspection of local authorities, says minister

  1. Blair McPherson February 12, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

    Considering the number of local authorities who have outsourced their HR, finance, payroll and IT services and the billions of pounds the NHS commissioning groups will be placing in contracts with the private sector it’s surprising no ones mentioned the other C word. This isn’t Chicago ( have you seen BOSS USA tv series) or Naples, no one assumes that financial inducements are necessary to win contracts or that public sector officials are corrupt but then again we didn’t outsource all these services before and why should we assume it’s only foreigners who can’t resist temptation.

  2. Gerald February 13, 2015 at 11:22 am #

    What the Minister needs to ask himself is why was the CQC set up in the first place, does he really think the radicals in charge of some Councils have disappeared ?
    We are Still looking for this level playing field we have been promised.

  3. noirdreams February 13, 2015 at 11:39 am #

    I agree with Colin Angel’s comments, commissioning practices need to be reviewed routinely, including the auctioning of care packages to the lowest bidder, the 15 minute care call concern, not paying for home care workers’ travel time and costs, and the overall ‘race to the bottom’ that commissioning practices can encourage,
    To have to wait for systemic failures to occur, and then be identified, before invoking the review duty is obtuse. To take your hands away from your eyes to finally acknowledge that, yes, there is actually a barn door long after the harm horse has bolted makes no sense at all from the perspective of either the person being supported or the provider working with them. Hardly supports the preventative agenda of the Care Act, either.

  4. Dina February 20, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    The commissioning bodies are responsible for buying care for the LA’s and they are also responsible and accountable for their choice of LA funded care providers. We all know the choices are being driven by cost but ALL CARE is regulated by CQC and those involved in it at any level should be monitored by CQC- who should be totally independent to political influences. Poor care is purchased by CCG’s who can allow it to happen by being granted immunity and that should ring massive alarm bells.