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A pay dispute that risks delaying care inspections has forced the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to negotiate better wages for inspection experts, as part of the £7m a year contract it recently awarded to Remploy.
On Monday (February 1), private firm Remploy began running the CQC’s Experts by Experience programme, which recruits experts for inspection reports, but a proposed pay cut for these workers has sparked complaints to the CQC.
Some experts have refused to register with Remploy, after the company informed them that their pay would be halved from £17 an hour to the Living Wage of £8.25 or £9.40 in London.
Remploy, owned by US firm Maximus, won the contract to run the Experts by Experience programme in the North and South of England and London regions, (previously run by the charities Age UK and Choice Support.) Choice Support has the contract for the Midlands region.
The experts' complaints to the CQC resulted in the Commission making the firm give existing experts £15 per hour for the first six months of its contract and £12.50 per hour six months after that.
The Commission said it is in ongoing negotiations with Remploy over the contract including what experts’ pay rate will be in the long term.
A CQC spokesman said: “Contracts have not yet been signed with either Remploy or Choice Support. As is standard practice in procurements of this size and complexity, we are working with both parties on agreeing the more detailed aspects of the contracts.“
Experts by Experience staff accompany CQC inspectors on unannounced visits to care homes for the elderly where they talk to residents and their relatives about their care. They visit people in their rooms, observe activities and meal times, assess the environment and write a detailed report. These are called experts because they’ve had direct and extensive contact with health or social care services, usually as a result of caring for a family member.
50 per cent more inspections pledge
At the end of last year, the CQC was working with 500 experts and at the time, Remploy stated it would look to make 'an increase of up to 50 per cent more inspections and activities involving them'.
An expert for the past two years, Claire Bolderson stated in her blog 'Calling time on my zero-hours job': 'The new bosses at the multi-million pound business taking over refuse to honour existing terms and conditions.
'While the CQC inspectors wade through the minutiae of care plans and staff training files, check regulations and interview managers and carers, we sit and chat and observe how the residents actually live.
'We watch interactions between staff and residents, listening for signs of disrespect and noting the many examples of genuinely warm and affectionate care. Afterwards, we sift through it all, pulling out the important details. Our reports are woven into the inspectors’ final judgements of the standards of care, and include many direct quotes.
''The terms of the new contract are insulting. Not just to us but to the elderly and vulnerable people we’re there to represent. So not surprisingly, we’re protesting.' In her blog, published January 27, she added: ‘But I’m sad that an inspection this week was my last. Sad also that there are unlikely to be many (if any) experienced and qualified experts available for inspections come February 1.’
Experts are involved in elderly care, homes for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities, inspections of hospitals, GP surgeries and domiciliary care.
Chris Day, CQC Director of engagement, said: "We have listened to the concerns that some Experts by Experience have raised with us about the changes to their contracts – and although we do not set pay rates, we have tried to address these concerns and to ensure as much protection for existing Experts as possible.
"We sincerely hope that the experts who currently work with us will continue to do so. Our increased investment in the Experts by Experience programme demonstrates how much we value the involvement of experts in our work and the individual expertise and experience they bring to our inspections, policies, strategies and training of our own staff."