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Social Care: Employers

Volume 710: debated on Monday 18 May 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make the reporting of all missed visits by social care workers mandatory. [HL3389]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make provision for penalising employers of social care workers who do not fulfil their legal requirements. [HL3452]

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will make provision for prosecuting firms providing social care workers who provide inaccurate information about missed calls. [HL3453]

The regulation of adult social care providers is now the responsibility of the new independent regulator, the Care Quality Commission, which took over from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission on 1 April 2009. The new commission will take a risk-based proportionate approach to its regulatory role.

The commission has a range of enforcement actions it can take against registered providers of adult social care who do not fulfil their legal obligations. These include:

a formal non-statutory caution;

a notice requiring improvement within a specified time period;

conditions that place restrictions on registration (for example, preventing the provider from running a particular service or preventing further admissions to a service);

prosecution of organisations and/or individuals—resulting in fines or, in extreme cases, imprisonment; and ultimately

cancellation of registration, which closes the service down.

The commission could also refer the matter to another body—for example, the police.

National minimum standards for domiciliary care providers recognise that people want care workers who are reliable, dependable and arrive and depart at the time expected. They specify that care staff should arrive at the home of the person using the service within the time band specified and work for the full time allocated. They also say that people who use services should be kept informed about their care and told in advance of any changes.

If any agency fails to meet its obligations contained in service specific regulations in relation to operation and the care of its customers, the commission will consider if a prosecution is suitable and in the public interest.

Separately, the commission may also consider the viability of continued registration of the provider. The provision of inaccurate information to the commission would be a serious matter, which would be considered in the context of the case and the overall safety of people using services.

From April 2010, we are introducing a new registration framework for providers of regulated health and adult social care activities. We are currently consulting on a number of policy issues to support the new framework, including what incidents should require notification to the commission. We are intending to set out the categories of information that providers will need to supply to the commission in regulations which we will put before Parliament later this year. The Care Quality Commission will be able to take enforcement action against providers of regulated activities who do not meet the requirements.

We have no specific plans to make the reporting of all missed visits by social care workers mandatory at this time. However, the proposals in the consultation for incidents that require notification include:

an allegation that a person who uses services has been abused;

an incident which is reported to, or investigated by, the police and involves the health and well-being of people who use services; and

an allegation of misconduct in relation to registration requirements against a person working for the purpose of carrying out a regulated activity.

The Care Quality Commission is currently working to develop the precise detail, content, format and timescale of notification it will require.

In addition, all providers of regulated activities will need to meet a set of registration requirements in order to register with the Care Quality Commission, and to maintain registration. These include requirements to treat people with dignity and respect, keeping records of the provision of care and treatment, and involving people in making informed decisions about their care and treatment.

Where providers are not meeting the registration requirements, the commission will have the flexibility to use its independent enforcement powers to bring poor providers back into compliance or to prevent people who use services from being exposed to serious risk of harm.