Local authority inspection units have been badly hit by the
budget crisis, says Heather Wing, chairperson of the National
Association of Inspection and Registration Officers. 'Some local
authorities have been making cuts in their number of inspectors to
make savings because of budget cuts,' she says.
Sheffield was slated in January this year by an SSI and Audit
Commission joint review for failing to visit three-quarters of its
residential care homes last year, although it is required to visit
them twice a year.
In Oxfordshire, where massive cuts have forced managers to wield
the axe, the inspection unit has lost 10 per cent of its staff in
the past year. Statutory duties are being maintained, but
discretionary work has suffered.
Sefton was criticised for not carrying out statutory inspections
of its children's services. Inspections were more than halved
between 1995 and 1996 and those carried out found that eight of the
council's homes failed to meet health and safety requirements. The
inspection crisis led junior health minister Paul Boateng to call
for the independent sector to foot more of the bill for home
inspections, where local authorities pick up 60 per cent of the
bill. Nursing home registration fees are set to increase by 40 per
cent and residential care fees by 13 per cent from May.