More disabled and older people will be paid to play a vital role in inspections of social care and health services, thanks to three new partnerships.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which regulates health and adult social care in England, this week announced the first three partners of its new Acting Together scheme.
Each partner organisation will help CQC find “experts by experience” (EBE), current or former service-users who take part in inspections of care homes and hospitals, and play a role in consultations, reviews, studies and CQC events.
More EBE are needed because the number of services regulated by CQC has risen sharply.
A CQC spokesman said EBE were “a cornerstone to everything we do” and the new partnerships would allow the commission “more flexibility” and the ability to send EBE on more inspections.
The number of EBE available to take part in inspections and other CQC activity is likely to rise from about 140 to more than 200, as a result of the new scheme, although it is not clear yet what impact this will have on the frequency of EBE attending inspections.
One of the new Acting Together partners is a consortium of disability and advocacy organisations – led by the social care charity Choice Support – which will find disabled people to work as EBE.
Some will have learning difficulties or autism, while others will have physical or sensory impairments, experience of being detained under the Mental Health Act, or mental health conditions.
The consortium includes the disability organisations Inclusion North, Living Options and Skills for People, and advocacy organisations VoiceAbility, Advocacy Alliance Bedford and Advocacy Experience.
Choice Support’s bid was based on its own successful Quality Checkers scheme, through which people with learning difficulties help to monitor the charity’s own services, and those of other organisations.
Kim Arnold, the national lead for the Choice Support consortium and Quality Checkers, said: “One of the key things that we have learned from Quality Checkers is that they learn so much within the first half an hour.
“They see what really is happening and that can be from the moment they ring the doorbell.
“It has been clear that the people who use the services have told the Quality Checkers important information that might never have been picked up by anyone else.”
Samantha Clark, chief executive of Inclusion North, one of the consortium’s members, said she believed Acting Together would bring “new impetus” to EBE and had “real potential to make a difference”.
She said: “People with learning difficulties are sometimes more likely to tell something to another person with a learning difficulty than they are a person who they see as in a professional role.”
She added: “I think it’s a real opportunity for CQC to work with people and family members in a spirit of collaboration.”
The disabled people who are recruited by the consortium will be paid £17 an hour. More than 70 – nine of whom have experience as Quality Checkers – have already signed “casual” contracts.
In addition to the Choice Support consortium, CQC has signed up Age UK to provide service-users and carers with experience of older people’s services, and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation to find family carers of people with learning difficulties and high support needs.