The expert strikes back

Stephanie de la Haye explains why she has resigned from CQC’s expert by experience programme

Resigning from the CQC Expert by Experience programme- “the Expert strikes back”

In Feb 2016 Remploy, 70% owned by the discredited American outsourcing firm Maximus (of PIP/ESA assessment fame) managed to win most of the Ex by Ex programme from the consortium that had been successfully running the scheme. Having been on the Mental Health Improvement board for CQC and working on other elements with the organisation around independent advocacy, I not only enjoyed the inspection work, but brought my many years of experience as someone who has used many elements of the health & social care /services, and also been a practitioner in pre-hospital care and mental health.

While its public record the backlash of the new providers and the reduction in the pay from £17 ph. to £9.07, which in its self-shows the complete devaluing of people and the role, the other provider Choice Support has kept the pay at £15 per hour. John Pring, the HSJ and others have reported the feelings of experts all over the country, many of whom left in disgust at the treatment by Remploy and CQC who seemed to just blame each other. The Specialist advisors who are part of the team (Nurses, Doctors, Pharmacists) are paid £300 per day by the way.

After a very protracted debate CQC/Remploy decided to have a transitional rate of £15 per hour for those who had moved from the previous contract. This now, in Feb 2017 has been deemed to be without equality for other new Ex by Ex who were on the lower rate, so yes, the premise that Remploy now equalise the pay rate for equality reasons! Before you think- so does that mean Choice support will do the same so the rate is equal across the whole contract – NO of course not- CQC state that it’s up to the contract organisations what they pay people. After all they are just the commissioners of the contract and they provide the millions to run it, from, untimely public sources.

When we had an update of the transitional rate from Remploy stating that as the contract was going so well they were extending it to the end of March…. “wow I thought aren’t we lucky people.” I questioned the fact that does this mean the rate was going down in April?

The reply from Remploy was

“The decision to terminate the extended transitional rate of pay for Experts who decided to continue working as Experts with Remploy and the Supply Chain Partners was made by CQC to ensure equitable pay for all Experts and Value for Money for CQC.”

Then I asked CQC was this right? The answer was:

Thank you for your email.  I was dismayed to see the communication that you received from Remploy stating that “The decision to terminate the extended transitional rate of pay for Experts who decided to continue working as Experts with Remploy and the Supply Chain Partners was made by CQC to ensure equitable pay for all Experts and Value for Money for CQC.” This not an accurate reflection of the situation.

Decisions on pay rates are for Remploy to determine in relation to the Experts by Experience they employ, and likewise for Choice Support in relation to their Experts by Experience.  Remploy will need to ensure pay rates for Experts by Experience within their contracts are equitable, but it is for them to determine the rates.

Yes, here we go, it’s not us guv it’s them!

So, the outcome has been for me personally to have to resign from a role I actually love to do, while it can be very intense, exhausting, demanding, highly skilled and a hugely responsible role to make sure the most isolated people get a voice and are heard and this is relayed to the inspection team. Angry, sad and frustrated are emotions that come to mind at the exploitation of experts like myself, and I’m not the only one who is having to leave the role. So, as an organisation the CQC have stated how important and vital we are to the regulation of health & social care services and in the full trust inspections we had the lead inspector saying please stand up those Ex by Ex as you are the most important part of the team!  Not when it comes to remuneration were not. Actually, we are cheap labour and due to our values and the passion we have so as to give people a voice we tend to actually work more hours that we get paid for anyway.

An example of this was with my penultimate inspection of a medium secure forensic unit with deaf specialist service. Due to the contract, we had officially 16 hours to work a 3-day inspection, so had to do 5 hours a day. This was not enough of course and I personally worked over 6 hours for nothing and had to work with at times 2 specialist translators and 2 escorts per person who I was taking to because of the multiple communication needs.  I was certainly glad I was getting well paid for this challenging role! Oops sorry I forgot I wasn’t.

So, I have one last inspection before I go and I reflect on the years of the “user movement”, trying to create equality and equity and people being valued for their, sometimes lifetime of experience of services and trying to end the tick box culture of “involvement” and being grateful for a shopping voucher. Are we now letting the faceless, impenetrable, private sector take us back to the dark ages? And are the people & organisations who should be creating a level playing field letting them get away with it? My answer is YES, they are.

The title of this blog had the Star Wars reference and yes, its feels like a war and a long running saga at times with a Black masked figure, good and evil, and in a galaxy far far away!

I’ve not really felt the “force” and it has definitely has not guided me, but I live in hope that that masked figure actually takes the mask off and reveals the truth……Steph de la Haye – Soon to be – Ex CQC Ex by Ex