The Care Quality Commission this week started its programme of unannounced inspections of 250 home care providers, which are designed to garner much more information from users than previous probes.
Agencies will be inspected at their headquarters without notice, unlike previous inspections of home care providers, which have been announced at short-notice, while there will also be more feedback from users.
The CQC will also be contacting local authorities for contacts of service users whom they fund as well as asking agencies for a random sample of their clients. The service users will either be sent questionnaires, telephoned by 'experts by experience' - service users who are helping conduct the inspections - or, if they consent, visited by inspectors in their own homes, including during care visits.
These methods will be coupled with checks on providers' care plans, records and other processes, and the CQC said that it hoped to get a more rounded assessment of domiciliary providers than it had previously been able to secure. The 250 inspections will run alongside the CQC's programme of 6,000 planned visits to home care providers this year and will also inform a thematic report on the sector.
The programme follows widespread concerns about the state of home care, after an Equality and Human Rights Commission review found widespread breaches of service users' human rights and a United Kingdom Homecare Association survey found council cuts were leading to undignified care.
The UKHCA said it welcomed the CQC's approach. "Really listening to the experiences of people who use homecare services is essential to effective and balanced regulation," said chief executive Bridget Warr.
CQC to probe standards of home care