The government has today ruled out statutory regulation of social care staff in England.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the compulsory registration of home care workers and the wider adult social care workforce “could not be justified” in the current economic climate.
The previous government had planned to register England’s 412,000 home care workers from early 2010. This would have been on a voluntary basis to begin with.
But in the Enabling Excellence white paper, presented to parliament this morning, Lansley argued that there were already systems in place for regulating social care, including the Care Quality Commission’s register of providers and the Vetting and Barring Scheme.
He added that an over-reliance on a centralised, national system of regulation could weaken local responsibility for managing problems.
Lansley said: “The government is not convinced that the case has been made for subjecting low paid workers in the adult social care sector to an additional tier of regulation by regulating individual workers.”
Instead, the Department of Health is proposing to put in place a “system of assured voluntary registration” for social care and healthcare professionals not currently subject to statutory regulation.
Under this system, employers would not be required to employ registered social care staff, although the government said they would incentivise employers to do so.
Voluntary registers would be accredited by the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which is to be renamed the Professional Standards Authority for Health and Social Care.
The government has suggested that the Health Professionals Council, which will take over responsibility for the social care register from the General Social Care Council in England in April 2012, could establish a voluntary register for social care workers by 2013.
Research commissioned by the GSCC in 2009 found home care workers actively welcomed the prospect of registration, believing it would give them the support and recognition they deserve while protecting vulnerable clients from poor quality workers.
Scotland and Wales already require some groups of social care staff to join the register in order to practise. And ministers in Northern Ireland announced plans in December for the phased introduction of compulsory registration of the entire social care workforce.
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