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Improving quality standards in social services

1 September, 2000

Health Minister, John Hutton, today published for consultation, proposals for improving the quality of social care services in England. 'A Quality Strategy for Social Care' includes plans for a new body to issue authoritative guidance on effective social care practice, a new quality framework and a radical reform of training requirements.

Mr Hutton said:

"Social services provide vital support and care for hundreds and thousands of people at any one time. We must ensure the highest possible standards are followed at all times. To help ensure these high standards, we are proposing new ways of working, new ideas on training and new systems to improve consistency and quality."

Finding out what works best and spreading the word about good practice has often been a stumbling block within social services. This results in inconsistent levels of quality throughout the country. The Quality Strategy will consult on the establishment of a new Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) which will have real authority and which will set out clear guidelines on effective social care practice. It will also produce best practice guidelines to create a Lifelong Learning social care workforce culture. Views will be sought on how SCIE can be used to pioneer change and accelerate the drive for quality.

The Government is also consulting on the introduction of a new quality framework for social services departments. This framework will ensure continuous quality improvements are able to be made, with an emphasis on local leadership, accountability and the importance of staff development.

To see any real achievements in quality there must be a recognition of the role and needs of the staff to support the modernising social services agenda. There are around one million people employed in the social care sector yet 80 per cent of these staff have no formal social care qualifications. Consultation will take place on the reform of social work training, including the level and length of training; a formal re-registration scheme for professional staff to be regulated by the General Social Care Council (GSCC); and the future use of Government funding for social care training.

The JM Consulting report, also published today, recommends significant upgrading of several aspects of qualifying training. The report shows a need for a greater focus on field experiences and
makes the following proposals - a national curriculum for social work training, the development of centres of excellence and a three-year undergraduate qualification. The recommendations from this report will be viewed alongside the comments received from the consultation.

Mr Hutton concluded:

"The significant increases in resources for social services being made available over the next three years, together with this new drive to improve the quality of these vital public services will help ensure people get the best possible care and support when they need it."