Hobson’s choice?

Since the last edition of ‘Real People’, 2 weeks ago, I am sorry to say that the picture of the Social Care Compliance Scheme isn’t much clearer, and there still remain more unanswered questions than definitive answers.

I advised our members on Monday that representatives from our working group (representing ARC, VODG, Care England, LDV) attended a meeting with officials from BEIS, Department of Health and HMRC on Tuesday 7th November to discuss the recent announcement of the Social Care Compliance Scheme (SCCS). No less than 11 Government Officials turned up (on average about 8 more than usual based on recent previous meetings).

When I heard that, the optimist in me felt that the mass turnout was an indication of the seriousness of the matter at hand and a commitment to help unravel the SCCS mystery. The pessimist said it was to show unity and strength to potentially deflect some of our key questions, safety in numbers and all that. And actually as it turns out it was the latter, as the meeting didn’t yield what we would have liked to put it mildly.

Before the meeting, we requested questions/concerns from our members (as did the other membership bodies) – these were collated and presented prior to, and at, the meeting. By being prepared, we hoped that the ‘powers that be’ would have some time to consider the answers we so needed (and still do), but I am not convinced it helped at all to be honest.

During the meeting, points were made by our group regarding the importance of clarity around the scheme and importance of Government financial support. It was made quite clear that no comment regarding funding was to be made and the focus of the meeting was firmly on the SCCS. We all know that financial assistance from the Government is vital to supporting providers meet their retrospectively liability – it was not of their doing but, it is crystal clear that is deemed their mess to clear up. We urge members to write to their local MP’s to ask for support for a commitment from Central Government to fund the back pay liability.  The Government need to step-up or there will be providers dropping out of the market.

The scheme is voluntary but lots of providers are between a ‘rock and a hard place’ and are still struggling to decide what to do, as you’d expect. There are still huge question marks of how the scheme will work in practice, so it is a leap in to the unknown. The scheme buys providers time. It also asks providers to embark on a mammoth task to calculate their own liability stretching back the full 6 years, with no funding available (at this stage anyway) to support them. If a provider gets a letter from HMRC, the decision ‘clock’ starts to tick after a conversation with the Compliance Officer. After 30 days HMRC want to know if they are in or out.  One thing that was confirmed is that providers can opt out though at anytime. What a conundrum to say the least.

As always we are here for our members if you have any questions, we will do our best to answer them, I am more than happy to talk through where we are at and what we know – although I fear the potential anomalies and unknowns mean we can only say so much. I have advised some members already to consider taking legal advice to discuss their individual requirements and concerns. The SCCS isn’t going to go away; it seems HMRC have decided this is the way to go, here’s hoping the Government get their act together to offer the much needed financial support to go with it… Please don’t hold your breath though … crystal ball time once again.

Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director
17 November 2017