The current arrangements for handling complaints in social care are determined by the provisions of the Local Authority Social Services Complaints (England) Regulations 2006 and the Care Standards Act (CSA) 2000. Together, these define the respective statutory responsibilities of local authorities and regulated care providers in matters of complaint.
The current framework for the regulation of provider care services was implemented in 2002, with the creation of the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC). The CSA 2000 placed no statutory complaints duties upon the NCSC and did not provide any powers for their investigation. The legislation defined the role of the regulator as one of ensuring the compliance of providers with their statutory complaints responsibilities.
As a regulator, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) has mandatory powers of compulsion under the CSA 2000 to ensure the compliance of care providers where a complaint indicates a breach under the Care Homes Regulations 2001 or the associated National Minimum Standards (NMS). In such instances, CSCI will issue requirements aimed at bringing the provider into compliance, and if necessary, will issue a statutory notice where the requirement has not been observed. Non-compliance with a statutory notice is an offence that can result in a cancellation of a provider’s registration.
CSCI can ensure that a breach of regulations identified by an individual complaint is acted upon through its compliance activity, to the benefit of all people using a regulated care service.
In effect, CSCI uses its powers of inspection as the regulator to undertake proportionate inquiries into all information (including complaints) brought to its attention about regulated care services. CSCI considers that its focus is correctly upon provider compliance with service specific regulations and NMS, not interpersonal conflict resolution between complainant and provider, for which it has no statutory responsibilities.