Essex: Care providers set for cash incentives

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- Credit: PA

ADULT care providers have been offered an £8million incentive to improve the quality of their services.

Essex County Council has made the money available in a scheme to drive up standards in both nursing and residential homes, as well as domiciliary care.

The majority of the funding is being targeted at companies providing care for elderly people. Under the conditions of the initiative, providers will qualify for bonus payments if they can show they have taken steps to up-skill their staff, increase community involvement in their care programmes and improve the overall quality of the care they provide.

But critics have questioned how this criteria will be measured and have said quality can only realistically be improved if staff are paid higher wages.

The new scheme, due to start on April 1, was passed by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday where Councillor John Aldridge, cabinet member for adult care, introduced the scheme.

He said: “We don’t just want to give money to care providers but we will pay them more if they improve the quality of care.

“We have listed the outcomes we are looking for providers to demonstrate but we aren’t going to tell providers how they should approach this. It is up to them to find innovative ways of driving up quality. But one key way is by up-skilling staff.”

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Already the budget for adult care in the county is more than £380m, around half of which is used to provide care for older people, and Mr Aldridge said the incentive programme came at a time when it was expected there would be 20% more people over 85 years old living in Essex over the next five years.

He added; “To a certain extent this is a pilot and we don’t know the impact it will have. Providers should embrace it with open arms.”

But Lib Dem opposition councillor Theresa Higgins said she felt the scheme did not deal with the issue of low pay in the care sector.

She said; “Paying care staff a proper wage is key to improving care. It would provide a higher level of job satisfaction and reduce the high turnover in the sector, which impacts on the continuity of the service.

“If staff are to be up-skilled, providers must make sure they are paid higher than the minimum wage when they get their qualifications.”

At the Essex Independent Care Association, a not for profit organisation, which represents the interests of social care providers in the region, chairman Clive Weir also questioned how parts of new criteria would be measured.

He said: “If we say care providers are to be rewarded for community engagement, what does this mean? Does it mean a trip to the pub, a visit by a school or a day out at the seaside? We need a framework to work in.”

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