Staff and service users criticise plans to merge inspection authorities

Two new government agencies established to
raise standards in social care have come under fire this week from
staff and voluntary groups.

In a joint letter to health secretary Alan
Milburn, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have condemned the
Department of Health’s decision to merge the National Care
Standards Commission with the Social Services Inspectorate.

The reorganisation, which is likely to happen
in 2004, was announced just three weeks after the NCSC began work,
and has “caused immense concern and anxiety to the recently
transferred staff,” says the letter.

It adds that the decision has had a negative
impact on the commitment and loyalty of staff, many of whom had
been unhappy about being moved from local government and health
authorities into the NCSC. They “now feel that they have been let
down very badly by ministers”.

In the letter, the unions also warn that the
change is likely affect the recruitment of the extra staff needed
to meet performance targets.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Records Bureau, set up
in March to allow employers access to criminal records of potential
employees, is facing criticism from the voluntary sector over the
way it processes applications.

Representatives from the National Council for
Voluntary Organisations, the National Association of Volunteer
Bureaux and the National Association of Councils for Voluntary
Service met criminal justice minister Keith Bradley this week to
raise their concerns about the CRB.

NCVO parliamentary officer Richard Hebditch
said many organisations found the new system confusing as it
involves them contacting a local umbrella organisation which will
apply to the CRB on their behalf.

Since it was set up just over two months ago,
the troubled organisation has made only 10,000 disclosures, despite
receiving 57,000 applications. Of those, 4,000 were made last week,
following the recruitment of an extra 30 staff to its call centre
and an increase in work hours from 14 to 24 hours.

A spokesperson for the Home Office admitted
the CRB had suffered “teething troubles” but said they were now
addressing them.

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