Poorly performing care homes should be constantly re-evaluated to help drive better performance similarly to the way failing schools are re-inspected, an older people’s charity has argued.
Independent Age believes lessons can be learned from the education sector, where Ofsted tackles failing schools with a comprehensive improvement plan, such as management changes, arranging for expert help from other schools and regular re-inspections.
Its Care home performance across England report said such approaches were not being consistently used across the care home sector but could help tackle poor performance.
With over 2.6 million over 65s living in areas where an increasing number of care homes are rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement by the regulator, many older people and their families have no choice but to choose a poorly performing care home, the charity claimed.
Analysing the Care Quality Commission’s inspection data in January 2018 and January 2019, Independent Age found: more than a third (37%) of local authorities saw a fall in performance, in contrast to 22% the year previous; in Manchester, 44% of care homes were rated Inadequate or Requires Improvement; and there were 16 local authority areas where between 30-40% of care homes were given these ratings.
It is calling on the government to finalise a sustainable long-term funding settlement for social care.
George McNamara, Independent Age director of policy and influencing, said: ‘These findings are truly alarming, and show thousands of vulnerable older people live in homes that are failing to deliver even the bare minimum.
‘Years of dithering by the government, and the failure to reform the social care system, is a main cause of increased pressures on the care home market and more areas with poor performers. Unless the forthcoming green paper is bold and ambitious, it will do little to address the crisis in care.’
Professor Martin Green, Care England chief executive, said: ‘The research by Independent Age clearly shows that the years of inadequate funding are having a real impact on the quality of care. Low levels of funding and no long-term strategy for social care by the successive governments are destroying large parts of a vital sector.’
However, Bhavna Keane-Rao, managing director of care consultancy BKR, was less convinced about having similar re-evaluations to that of failing schools.
She said schools, with the exception of private ones, were publicly funded and therefore not in direct competition with each other.
‘Care homes as private businesses are in direct competition with each other for staff and service users,’ she said.
‘Ofsted are also changing their process of inspection as it had previously focused on the final exam result and not the progress individuals had made (value added scores) or the behaviour management elements of the school. This demonstrates that Ofsted feels that its own process are not meeting the needs of its own sector,’ Keane-Rao added.
The government has provided local authorities with access to up to £3.6bn more dedicated funding for adult social care this year and up to £3.9bn next year. It also plans to publish its green paper soon.