Could proposed CQC fees hike affect your homecare business?
A recently proposed hike in the fees that social care providers pay to the Care Quality Commission could see small micro-providers in the community financially crippled and potentially unable to provide the essential, local care and support services that they deliver.
When you choose to provide certain services to your clients, or you are responsible for a team of carers or support workers, then you will need to be registered with CQC to legally operate your business (find out more about CQC registration here).
This is something that you need to build into your business plan, both as a financial outlay and as an administrative task that takes time. You need to pay to be a registered provider of care services, which is already a significant charge that you need to allow for.
However, providers could soon face a steep hike in CQC fees, which may prevent or delay businesses from operating. In a set of proposals published for consultation recently, fees collected from providers will have to cover the full cost that the CQC needs to regulate services. At present, the government funds 50% of the regulation budget, which equates to around £224 million.
This change would hit care providers of all sizes, but it is the micro-providers in the community that would be the greatest affected. These micro-providers give essential services to local communities, often bridging gaps that the large providers cannot meet, or offering more personalised and tailored services to users. However, operating at the smaller end of the scale means that an increase in costs would have to be passed on to the service user, which could leave some service users unable to continue to fund the care that they currently receive, or may mean that some micro-providers cease to operate altogether.
The consultation document suggests that under the proposals, a community social care project paying an annual rate of £796 at present, could find themselves with an ever-increasing bill year on year, peaking at £3,287 by 2019/20. This is because the cost changes would be staggered over time, starting from April 2016.
Nichola Goom, You’re the Boss’s Managing Director, says: “Micro-providers typically employ just two or three members of staff. They’ve generally grown from an individual paid carer who’s been so good at what they do that they have needed to take on staff to support the clients referred to them. Employing a member of staff, and therefore going through the CQC registration process, was difficult and costly enough at £796 per year, but a rise of over 300% is untenable. For a typical micro-provider, this will result in the CQC costs that need to be accounted for in the hourly fee charged to service users rising from around 15p per hour to 65p per hour.”
This is something that is a huge issue for Hayley Alcock of Hayley’s Homecare, a small homecare provider in Gloucestershire. Hayley is currently undergoing the registration process, but the fees are worrying and she is not sure that she will be able to afford them: “A 300% hike in CQC fees is simply not an option for me. I will have to carefully consider how and who we can support in the future; ultimately it will probably mean that I cannot offer certain services to clients, such as personal care and medication support.”
As well as small businesses, care home providers and other key service providers will have to pay the additional fees, which will add to the pressure that they are already under due to underfunding. This may have the knock-on effect that self-funded service users will have to pick up some of the costs.