The Department of Health set out plans to establish a new system of regulation and inspection of social care providers in its 1998 white paper on modernising social services. The white paper noted that:
‘The people who work in social care are called on to respond to some of the most demanding, often distressing and intractable human problems. Yet there are few public accolades for getting it right and virulent criticism for getting it wrong. The government recognises this, and has no wish to undermine or attack those who work in the social care sector. Nevertheless, there are serious problems ... 80% of this large workforce which works directly with very vulnerable people have no recognised qualifications or training; there are no national mechanisms to set and enforce standards of practice and conduct ... [and] the standards and suitability of some education and training in social care do not enjoy general confidence.’
The department suggested that the previous regulatory arrangements were ‘incomplete and patchy’. Responsibility for the regulation of adult and children’s services was split across health authorities, local authorities and the Department of Health, with significant exclusions (ie council-run care homes and domiciliary care).
The government planned to create eight regional commissions for care standards which would be responsible for regulating residential care, nursing homes, domiciliary care, children’s homes and council run homes.
The department also proposed to establish a General Social Care Council (GSCC) to set practice and raise standards in the social care workforce.