Talking of hurdles...........


By Leon A Smith
May 23, 2011
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Nobody can be unaware of the enormous financial pressures which so many segments of public society experience at the present time as a consequence of the public spending review. We have heard many stories of very small charities doing excellent and important work who are literally having to go out of business because they were so dependent on funding from local authorities and/or from other umbrella organisations who in turn were dependent on local authority funding.

We read stories of libraries closing, charges to parents for their children going into playgrounds in the park, reduced refuse collection, increased charges for parking on the road outside our homes – yet I wonder how much of the real effect of these cuts we have really felt so far. My feeling is that in 12 to 18 months time the situation is going to be far worse than it is at the present time.

In one sense it is almost comical to hear government talking on the one hand about the increased role that the voluntary sector should have. Admittedly many of these increases do not come directly from government but they do come from a variety of different QUANGOs. I would like to give you an example: The regulatory body which has responsibility for the care sector is something called CQC – Care Quality Commission. A number of previous National regulators have existed including the Commission for Social Care Inspection etc. As part of its role, CQC has a rating system whereby care homes for vulnerable adults, children etc are given “stars” from 0 to a maximum of 3. This scheme has been suspended and will be replaced with another.

At the present time the maximum rating of 3 carries with it the narrative of “Excellent”. Nightingale is at the present time and I very much hope it will continue to be – an “Excellent” 3-star home.
CQC are however now consulting on putting a different scheme in place. Effectively this will have a range of points, or stars or gradings – or whatever they want to call them, to a certain level. If however a home wants to consider to be described as “Excellent” or the equivalent of a current 3-star home, it then has to make a special application for this privilege and of course will have to pay for this privilege. What possible justification or rationale can there be for this? Surely it’s a fundamental part of the role of the National regulator to grade the homes which it registers and inspects in order that potential clients can make informed decisions about which care home they should go into.

Yet now, the providers, will have to jump through more hoops and pay money in order to be considered at the highest possible level. Doubtless the large corporate providers will have no difficulty in finding the resource or the funding to apply for this privilege. But many smaller homes who may be providing first class quality person centred care, may not be able to afford to make the application to go to the higher level because of resource and money. This means that they would effectively have to stay at the level below. This in turn means that those who may be researching homes either for themselves and/or for a relative will not have a full accurate picture because many of the truly excellent homes will not be recognised as such.
This all sounds complicated. It is! It seems that this is just another obstacle put in our way in trying to carry out our core business of providing quality care to older people.

Another example – the previous government were in the process of extending the Barring and Vetting regime to such an extent that many of you will have heard of the absurd examples being given about the number of people that would have to have Criminal Records Bureau checks - grandparents taking their children to the park and other such similar nonsense. Fortunately all of this is on hold and a serious re-think is taking place by the coalition government on how a system can be implemented in a much fairer and lighter way. We are waiting to hear the exact details of this. That’s excellent news!

But at the same time, it will be incumbent (and quite rightly so) on all care homes to ensure that Criminal Records Bureau checks are made on all their employees. So what happens? The cost of providing a CRB check has now gone up from £36 to £44 per person. Possible help on the one hand – further pressures on the other. And so it goes on.

Why am I telling you all this? Well really it’s to get it off my chest! Running a charity today – and particularly running a care home is far from straightforward and one does sometimes get the feeling that as soon as one hurdle is jumped another one is put in its place!

Talking of hurdles, I tried to obtain tickets for a group of our residents to go to the Olympics next year. It can’t be done! There are no facilities for group bookings – would you believe it!

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