Social care leaders have criticised the Department of Health

Social care leaders have criticised the Department of Health’s silence on extending the register in England to home care staff with some calling for the idea to be scrapped.

In July 2005 then care services minister Liam Byrne promised to extend the register beyond social workers and social work students, “to improve user safety and public confidence”, saying: “We need to move quickly”.

Last February, Byrne’s successor, Ivan Lewis, announced plans to register home care workers from late 2007 or early 2008, while this February, he said he hoped it would happen by “late summer”. But the DH has told Community Care discussions were still continuing with the General Social Care Council with no set date for an announcement.

United Kingdom Homecare Association head of policy and communication Colin Angel said this “hardly sends a strong message that government is committed to the process”.

Social Care Association chief executive Nick Johnson urged: “If there’s a glitch, talk about it, don’t sit behind closed doors and say there’s going to be an announcement.”

Johnson called for the register to be opened first to managers and professionals, for whom social care was a career – the SCA’s long-held position.

He said they would be motivated to register and could then “look after the quality of the workforce”. However, he said home care was “volatile” with turnover rates of around 30%, and most leavers quitting in their first two years. Registration would be for an initial six-year period.

Mary Bryce, chair of home care professional body Ceretas’ executive committee, questioned registration’s value in protecting users or developing staff, despite re-registration being conditional on doing 30 days’ training.

She said “we do not have the set-up for continuing professional development”, and added that staff would be subject to the Independent Safeguarding Authority’s scheme to vet people working with children and vulnerable adults and bar those deemed unsuitable from 2009.

Angel said providers felt having both systems “may require unnecessary duplication”. The UKHCA has warned providers would have to meet the £64 ISA fee and the annual £20 registration fees as staff would find them unaffordable, but predicted councils would not help employers meet the costs.

The GSCC said it wanted registration to happen “as soon as possible” because it was “key” to raising standards and protecting users.

The Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish registers have all been extended beyond social workers.

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