Government social care chief David Behan has been named as the new chief executive of the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The appointment marks a return to the helm of social care regulation for Behan, who was chief inspector of the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) from 2003-6.
A registered social worker, he was subsequently made the Department of Health's first director general for social care, a role he has held ever since. Behan will succeed Cynthia Bower at the end of next month.
This should enable him to oversee the publication of the forthcoming social care White Paper and draft bill on care reform.
"The quality of applicants was exceptionally strong, but David's combination of frontline and regulatory experience, coupled with his commitment to making a difference for people who use services, made him an outstanding candidate," said CQC chair Jo Williams.
Behan said: "I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to run the organisation that takes action where services are poor and unsafe, whilst providing assurance that our health and care services are fit to achieve quality outcomes for people which are amongst the best in the world.”
His appointment was hailed by sector leaders.
"David Behan has a record of achievement as a regulator and an unrivalled understanding of social care," said English Community Care Association chief executive Martin Green. "I welcome his appointment as chief executive of CQC and I hope it heralds a new era for regulation"
"David has strong credentials within social care and is a highly-respected individual," said United Kingdom Homcare Association chief executive Bridget Warr. "It is critical that CQC receives strong leadership from its new chief executive and recognises the whole picture - not only the regulation of services, but the wider picture of commissioning, personalisation and the integration of health and social care."
Behan was a "highly-respected chief inspector of the CSCI" who had had a "distinguished career" in social care, said Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Sarah Pickup.
John Adams, general secretary of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, said: "The VODG warmly welcomes David Behan’s appointment as the Care Quality Commission's new chief executive. David’s successful track-record at the CSCI makes him uniquely qualified for this important role, in particular his willingness to engage with stakeholders bodes well for a more creative approach to quality improvement."
However, he raised concerns about a possible vaccuum Behan's departure might leave at the Deaprtment of Health, given the forthcoming White Paper and draft bill.
"More than anything social care desperately needs dynamic political leadership and hopefully this development doesn’t signal further marginalisation of social care within the department," Adams added.
The DH said director of social care policy Shaun Gallagher would take over Behan's role until a permanent successor were appointed. Gallagher has a background in policy and has held various such roles at the DH over the past 20 years.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “I would like to thank David for his dedication and professionalism. He has made a huge contribution, both in designing the reform of the social care system so it is fit for the future, but also securing much better integration of health and social care.Mithran Samuel is Community Care's adults' editor.
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