The government’s recent demand that regulators must recover the full costs of regulating services means social care providers will face sharp increases in the fees they pay to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The proposal would see 100% of the CQC’s annual regulation costs covered through provider fees while currently 50% is paid for by the government. The changes would also result in community social care providers costs rising by 313% to £3,287 per year, a fee the care sector – which is already at breaking point – simply cannot afford. The move has generated extreme backlash within the industry who say there is little justification for hiking prices.
As the care sector already faces challenges with inadequate funding from local authorities, social care will face severe consequences from this extra cost and care home fees would have to rise as well. It is yet another financial setback for the sector, which is already under considerable pressure from an ageing population and slashed budget, compounded by a rise to the minimum wage and recent ruling that traveling to work should be included as working time (as assessed in previous Prestige blogs). This is another blow that the industry is ill-poised to take.
The question of how providers will make up for this added fee raises serious concerns. The cost of care is already substantial, and issues surrounding quality of care will continue to feature as outgoings increase. Raising the cost for consumers will be an unpopular move and raise larger questions about how those requiring care will be able to cover the cost of it. Yet, few other solutions seem possible since providers will not be able to cover it on their own.
The CQC is ultimately constrained by government policy but while the CQC debates whether to stagger the fee rises over two or four years, the rest of the care sector is questioning how to handle the new policy. With yet another increase in financial pressures, it is critical for alternative options to be considered before quality is further sacrificed or numbers of staff reduced.