Fair Price For Care: Do Local Authorities Get it Right?

The Care Act Programme Office (ADASS, DH & LGA) work in partnership to support the implementation of the Care Act. New duties in the Act say that the social care market must offer choice that delivers outcomes that improve well-being. The Act expects commissioning bodies to:

  •  Be cost effective: value for public money
  • Understand the costs of differing care and support
  • Understand the business environment and take actions that ensures market sustainability

Research indicates that this is a growing area of concern for local authorities given austerity and the financial imperative to save money set alongside the desire to provide excellent services.

It is certainly an area of concern for care providers. Care is not a homogeneous product; care users and care providers are infinitely diverse. Whilst there are common principles, the market relies on large numbers of smaller providers often offering niche services to small groups of people. The market is structured so that private businesses provide the service; private businesses can only continue if they see a return on investment. This pluralism needs to be nurtured if the well-being agenda is to be met.

The Chartered Institute for Public Finance have been commissioned to establish practical guidance too help. This is sorely necessary as new tendering and contracting frameworks are causing huge turbulence on the ground. They are asking for examples of good practice in costing and pricing that commissioners can share. Let's hope that new models have well-being at the heart of them, not a residual outcome after cost savings.

Red Link Alliance Saves You Money


The C&SW buying group Redlink Alliance’s FREE service is saving Care Providers who use their suppliers an average of 21% on a wide range of products and services.

This can mean savings of £1000’s of pounds per year and it won’t cost you a penny!

Redlink have recently appointed two new clinical and general waste contractors, a utilities broker and a new care sector insurance company.

If you need a trade account with discount from Screwfix and up to 60 days credit, ring us now to set it up.

To find out how Redlink can save you money, please contact Brian Ritchie at any of the details below.

Tel: 01935 420400

Mob: 07853 147389



Hidden Gems: Excel Skills to Unlock Productivity

Delivering training to the care sector is always a pleasure.  The attendees invariably have so little time to learn new skills in their daily routine that they are amongst the most enthusiastic of all groups that I train.  I recall one incident were a despondent administrator was so overjoyed when she found she could mail merge the hundreds of name badges she was planning on typing up by hand that she gave me a hug!

One area that I have been involved in recently is in delivering IT training for those that support care workers.  Some use desktop PC’s in an office environment, some are more mobile and have laptops, whilst others work from home and may use a variety of devices.  There is a lot of investment tied-up in all the equipment they use and probably even more money tied-up in the software that runs on it.  Although I have come across some very capable users in my time I would say, more often than not, that all of this expensive computer power is generally under-exploited.  Bearing in mind how tight funds are in the care sector this is quite an eye opener for an outsider like me!

What can we do about this?  Well, I like to compare a modern computer system to a high-tech garage filled with the most exotic and specialist tools you could imagine.  Tools that could be used to perform surgery of any type on any vehicle.  All neatly lined up in rows ready for the mechanic to work their magic on the poorly machinery that gets wheeled in for repair.  Together with the exotic though are more basic tools that are used on a daily basis – the screwdrivers and hammers if you like.  In terms of computers most of us can use these basic tools, but imagine what we could achieve with the more exotic ones.

Microsoft Excel is a very good example of a ‘high-tech garage’.  It has over 300 built-in functions for performing the most amazing of operations on your data.  How many of these hidden gems actually get used by the majority of users though?  In my experience probably less than one percent of them.  So that’s 99% sat there doing nothing, day-in, day-out!

In truth many Excel functions are esoteric, and would rarely be required under normal circumstances, but nevertheless there are at least a dozen functions that most users could really benefit from learning as part of their regular toolset.  This is what we aim to do on our courses –­ reveal the hidden gems and unleash the true power of the software that sits on your desktop, just waiting for you to discover it.  Power that can help you do your job better, either by saving you effort or making things simpler and easier, or by allowing you to do things you never thought were possible. Excel Function Summary v1_4

Please get in contact for help with IT training:

Are You Paying Too Much Tax?

Are you paying too much Tax?

“Time has flown by” is a common phrase we hear so often as the days and weeks seemingly merge into years.  Without realising it your care business may have also changed beyond recognition in that time.  It  may be time to take stock and consider whether you are paying too much tax.

If you have not reviewed your business structure recently and are operating as a sole trade or partnership, now is as good a time as any.  Incorporating a business can save or defer tax, especially when profits are retained in the business to fund growth or to pay down any bank debt.

With corporation tax rates having reduced over the past few years (and down to 20% for all companies from April 2015) and with no income tax or national insurance due on dividends paid out up to the basic rate band (currently £41,865) the on-going savings of moving to a company structure may make it an attractive route for care businesses.  It is essential to consider all taxes including business, personal and indirect to determine the most appropriate business structure in each particular circumstance. We can help you to consider this as well as advising of the potential costs to implement.

If you are already operating through a company there are still further opportunities to save tax.  For example, a review of your remuneration strategy could result in tax savings for the directors and shareholders.  In addition, it is never too early to plan for a future exit, to ensure that Entrepreneurs’ Relief is available, to reduce your capital gains tax rate to 10% rather than the headline rate of 28%.  Furthermore, there are various tax reliefs and allowances available to the company which should be reviewed on at least an annual basis to make sure they are being claimed to their maximum value.

Although VAT is not an issue for most care businesses because their supplies are VAT exempt, it may be worth a quick health check to ensure they are VAT exempt and to check the correct (or lower!) rate of VAT has been charged on supplies to the business.

Finally, a boring but essential reminder, regardless of how your business is structured, is to make sure you keep good records.  To ensure that you pay the right amount of tax and can offset all of your business expenses against income, those receipts need to be kept in a safe place!

We can help to identify the best way to save tax based on your particular circumstances without compromising your commercial goals.  If you would like to discuss further, please get in touch with Rachael Anstee, Director at Hazlewoods, on 01242 246688 or e-mail

New RedLink Alliance Suppliers


SCREWFIX – All the things your maintenance team will need for your care home. If you want to open a trade account with them just contact us here at Redlink and we will send you all the necessary details.

CLINICAL WASTE SOLUTIONS – Paying too much for your clinical waste collections? Clinical Waste Solutions are a leading, specialist waste and recycling organisation that provides affordable clinical, medical and general waste management solutions to businesses throughout Southern and Southwest England: Contact Redlink for full contact details on this service.

THE UMBRELLA GROUP – They create fabulous interiors from concept to completion. With a full design service and a vast product portfolio, the Umbrella Group “create interiors that sell rooms”. Contact Redlink for full details on this service.

News Item via Care & Support West

News Item via Care & Support West

THE PAVEY GROUP – They deliver Insurance Solutions for the Care Sector. With over 30 years experience in the care sector, they pride themselves on the high level of advice their clients receive. Contact Redlink for full details on this service.


Brian Ritchie: Tel: 01935 420400 ; Mobile: 07853 147389; Fax : 01935 315114 ;


Care Service Excellence – Part 3

Continuing our series on Excellence in Care, this time we take a look at the topic of Information and Access.

I’d like you to consider the care service that you deliver as being made up of two elements: the care service itself, plus all the information that you provide to your service users. To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at an example not from the world of care but instead from the world of airline travel.  What’s the deal when you buy an airline ticket? At its simplest, the deal is that you pay the fare in return for the travel.  But what makes a particular flight stand out in your mind as good or bad will probably be how well the airline does at keeping you informed during the journey, making sure you are kept in the picture and you know what’s going on. What’s the commonest complaint about a service that’s gone wrong?  Usually it’s something like “We didn’t know what was happening”.

Care is the same.  Service users really value what they are told by your staff and others.  This includes things like:

  • what’s available, options, choices
  • what’s coming up
  • involvement and consultation
  • plans and changes

One of the most frustrating parts of being a customer is not being kept informed about what is happening! Putting service users first often comes down to ensuring effective communications.

  • Do your staff know the importance of good communication?
  • Do you check that service users have received and understood the information you are providing?
  • Have you considered the range, content and quality of verbal and written information to ensure it meets the needs of service users? Have you tested it?
  • Can service users give you feedback on the quality of the information they receive?
  • Do your service partners understand like you the importance of information as a vital part of the service?

Providing the right information in the right way can be an important step to good service delivery in care.

Care Service Excellence – Part 2

All organisations exist to serve people.  Regardless whether an organisation is a hot dog stand, a government department, a tennis club, a charity, an airline or a care provider, it deserves to exist only because it provides what people need.  This in turn means that a customer-focused culture has to lie at the heart of every successful organisation.  Organisations that lose sight of the customer do not survive; nor do they even deserve to survive, since an organisation without customers has lost the only real reason for their existence.

How can care organisations ensure a customer-focused culture?  There are just two elements of customer focus:

  • leadership
  • staff professionalism and attitude

Customer-focused leadership simply means a universal commitment to putting the customer at the heart of delivery of the service.  Good systems and capturing customer insights are important of course, but most important of all are empowered employees who can and do make the customer the priority.

Consider replacing your staff policies and procedures manual by having just 2 rules for staff:

  1. Put the customer first
  2. In difficult situations – if you can show you have put the customer first you have done the right thing.

That’s it. No more rules.

Staff professionalism and attitude comes from how staff are recruited, trained and managed.  Customer focus should be at the heart of any staff performance management system and reward system. Plus, there have to be feedback mechanisms for staff to speak the truth to management, and for managers to listen and learn.

Taken together these 2 elements will build a customer-focused culture in every care provider.

Peter Weeks


The market for insurance for care providers

The current insurance market is an oligopoly. There are many buyers i.e. care providers and the number is growing but there are few sellers on the insurers’ side.

During the past year there have been a number of withdrawals from the care insurance market, most notably Ecclesiastical and Ansvar, as well as the collapse of a scheme with Milburn. In this case it was alleged the insurer was not authorised to transact business in the UK.

Industry sources suggest that Ecclesiastical Insurance controlled about £30m worth of premiums across the care sector. As Ecclesiastical has continued to struggle, some have suggested that perhaps the correctly-priced value for their business was more in the region of £45m. This is a sizeable piece of the market for care insurance.

The withdrawal of Ecclesiastical and Ansvar has created a supply problem in the insurance industry. Insurers have a limit on how much business they can or are prepared to write in the care sector and most insurers are frankly not looking to write more care business than they have at present.  Insurers are also becoming more choosey about what risks they will take on.  We have heard that some insurers will not look at cases where there have been any Inspection issues in the past 12 months. Others are setting higher standards for a home’s management team than in the past. Homes with a bad claims history are finding it very hard indeed to even get cover.

Until recently a well run claims-free care business may have been given discounts of around 60% off book rates. Today discounts have been reduced to 25-30%. This coupled with general rate increases means that insurance premiums for carers could double compared to last year.

If you are a care business what can be done?  The most important point is to make sure that you begin the insurance renewal process in good time. The needs of care homes are complex and a lot of detail must be considered.  Ideally you should be starting discussions with your insurance provider 2 or 3 months before renewal date.  The risk of leaving it late is you may be forced to pay whatever your insurer proposes as the new premium without time to negotiate.

There are some insurers out there who are very cheap. This causes concerns because cover may not be good or they might not be collecting sufficient premiums to pay claims, or they may not be investing sufficiently in their own infrastructure, meaning that service levels may be poor.  Insurance is very much like care.  You want to provide good quality care, but it doesn’t come cheaply.  Neither does good quality insurance!

On examination of liability claims within the care insurance market, there is a clear correlation between homes with poor quality managers/temporary managers/no managers and costly liability claims.  You might think employing a great manager is costly, but it’s not as costly, in the long term, as having poor management.

Rising Insurance Premiums

Your recent insurance renewal letter may have given you a bit of a shock when you opened it…

With the recent high profile scandals in the care sector and the risk of bigger claims being pressed by lawyers on behalf of clients, the big Insurance companies and the underwriters who specialise in the care sector are getting a lot more choosy these days about offering cover and the price they charge.  The biggest insurance company, Ecclesiastical Insurance, has announced it is withdrawing from most of the care sector in March 2014 following losses on some very large claims. Ecclesiastical covered about 30 percent of all care homes in the UK and some have called this move a body blow to the care industry. Other insurance companies have raised premiums and/or reduced cover for abuse claims.  So what can a care provider do to manage insurance costs?

First point; make sure that you begin the renewal process in good time. The needs of care homes are complex and need to be examined in detail.  We suggest starting the dialogue with your insurance provider 3 months ahead of renewal date.  The risk otherwise is you may be forced to pay whatever they offer you without time to negotiate.

There are some insurers out there who are very cheap. This causes concerns because cover may be limited or they might not be collecting sufficient premiums to pay claims, or they may not be investing sufficiently in their own infrastructure, meaning that service levels may be poor.  Insurance is like care.  You want to provide good quality care but it doesn’t come cheaply; neither does good quality insurance!

One insurance broker we work with, Simcox Brokers, says the place to start is with your risk management and safety awareness.  If you can show solid evidence of quality risk management, a broker can often persuade underwriters that the risks of problems and therefore claims arising under your insurance policy is low.  And this of course translates into lower premiums for you.

All insurers will check a care provider’s latest CQC reports, but this is no more a sign that there is nothing bad in the public domain.  To show that you are well “above the line” in terms of quality and low risk, an independent assessment of quality can be a valuable asset in insurance negotiations. Doing an independent assessment says a lot about you to an insurer.  It says you are open to feedback and looking to improve and suggests you have confidence in the quality of what you do. In turn, that engenders confidence on the part of the insurer.