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Fees response and resposibility

Blog Post 1 May 2017

I’ve recently completed an article for hard copy/online magazine/multi-media platform Driven by Health, addressing the care sector’s response to fees – those paid, and those charged.

Fees. Often a dirty word in the Press and something some people want as their own secret. Truth is, however, there needs to be a growing cooperation among all care operators if we are to get any real traction on the money paid to us by local authorities. That means a frank exchange of information.

It’s a ‘given’ that such fees do not anywhere near represent the cost of caring and for the record, the majority of the West Midlands Care Association time spent researching, negotiation and learning is centred on fees.

It’s taken a long time for the industry to heed Lord Digby Jones’ message that to be heard the sector needed to stand together with one corporate voice.

More than a decade ago I attended a WMCA conference where he was the keynote speaker and he said: “We stand at five to midnight without a voice in the corridors of power.” He was speaking about the fragmentation within the industry.

Need – the urgency to survive such difficult times – is driving change and like no time before the corporate voice of the care sector is finally being heard. Headlines in the media on the plight of social care are common and the issue is regularly on the lips of politicians.

How things change.

If you want to read the whole article it can be found online, but there are few extracts worth highlighting.

We are in a progressively polarised industry of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’. Essentially the difference is geographic – richer areas, as opposed to those poorer regions. My colleagues in Surrey rarely have businesses built with their prime income driver being a local authority; they are blessed with private payers aplenty. On my patch, however, the Midlands relay a very different story – but even within this area there are still rich/poor divides.

Currently the association is collating information on what authorities across the UK are paying for care packages, but whatever funding streams there are, essential to any business is sound economic policy. Knowing the cost of care in a unit division is essential to survival and the first lesson is the ability to dismiss sentiment, but keep the compassion.

As Winston Churchill said: "It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what's required." There are practical steps that we can take that will make a real, sustainable difference to the people we serve.

I don’t doubt that the majority of care operators who are struggling are doing their best in hugely difficult circumstances. Best, however, can often mean a reimagining on the way things work.

There is a place for being sentimental, but sustaining failing models requires clear thinking – something that sentiment can easily cloud.

What needs to be done is a proper costing exercise that delivers a creative and, yes, compassionate response.

In the article, I major on hope – I believe the engine that can drive the difference. Check it out – the psychology of it makes interesting reading.

And then there’s the need for cute marketing – again worth digesting – that capitalises on attributes some don’t even know they have.

Our patch – the Midlands – has a unique story hidden inside the common headlines of NHS bed blocking, families or local authorities refusing to sign off the finances of care and the chaos of over-full hospitals.

Our region’s diverse demography with extremes of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ has seen even moderately well to do businesses bow out of local authority contracts as they are unable to survive on the local authority rates paid.

You’d expect the marketplace to be rich with opportunity as demand outstrips supply, but the economies to scale only stack up if additional charges are levied. More of this and the problems of dome-care, learning disability specialisms and a static sales market can be found in my article.