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Social Services

Question for Department of Health

UIN 212942, tabled on 3 November 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what plans he has to increase standards of social care; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

10 November 2014

In July 2012, the Government set out its vision of the development of high quality care services in the White Paper, Caring for our future: Reforming care and support. This was reinforced in the Care Act. It set out clearly the care and support system we want to achieve – with the support of care and support organisations, charities, carers, volunteers and the public. The Adult Social Care Workforce programme supports delivery of this vision, through increasing capacity, improving capability and developing leadership.

On the recommendation of the Cavendish report into the failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, we are introducing the new Care Certificate, to help ensure that healthcare assistants, social care support workers and their employers can deliver a consistently high quality standard of care.

Health Education England, Skills for Care and Skills for Health launched the pilot for the Care Certificate on 28 April 2014. The pilot is taking place across a range of health and social care settings, and, subject to evaluation, the national introduction of the Care Certificate is planned for March 2015.

In order to make sure that people are held to account for the quality of care they provide, we are introducing measures to ensure that company directors who consent or turn a blind eye to poor care will be liable for prosecution. In the future, they and provider organisations could face unlimited fines if found guilty.

To ensure that social care providers and services employ and are run by people with the right values and skills, we are introducing a ‘fit and proper person’ test for Directors. Where the Care Quality Commission (CQC) considers a Director not to be fit to run a provider organisation, it will be able to insist on his or her removal.

The Government realised that the regulation and inspection of social care provision needed to improve. As a result, the CQC has introduced a new system of inspection of social care providers, backed by new fundamental standards of care. This new system of inspection is based on five important questions that matter most to people: whether services are safe, caring, effective, well-led and responsive to their needs. CQC inspections now result in a provider being rated on a four-point scale - ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’, for each of the five domains that it inspects. This results in clear, straightforward information that commissioners of services and the public can understand.

The new inspections are carried out by expert inspection teams, which include people who have personal experience of care. The CQC piloted the new approach from April 2014 and began to inspect and rate all providers against the new standards in October.

Under the Care Act, local authorities will have a new market shaping duty, meaning that they should work with local people and communities and engage with their local care providers to facilitate a diverse supply of high quality services.

The Care Act reforms should increase transparency and support more effective competition in local care markets. This will help providers of high quality care to attract more people and to grow and diversify their share in the market.

We have just issued statutory guidance to local authorities about their new market shaping duties. Together with Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association, we are developing a series of commissioning standards to improve local authority commissioning practices and encourage more flexibility, allowing providers to engage with them in new ways. We are keen to move commissioning from a “time and task” based to an outcomes-driven activity.

Employers are responsible for ensuring that any potential employee has the required level of communication skills for their role. It is essential that a workers’ command of English should be considered as part of the recruitment process. Under CQC’s current approach to inspection and regulation, it is stipulated that workers in adult social care should be able to communicate effectively with people who use services and other staff and to ensure that care, treatment and support of service users is not compromised. This applies to all workers, whatever their background or nationality.