'Modernising social services: promoting independence, improving protection, raising standards' white paper

1 December 1998

The Modernising social services white paper set out the government's vision for improving the provision of social services through promoting the independence of service users, improving consistency, and providing user-centred services. The Department of Health also set out plans to establish a new system of regulation and inspection of social care providers.

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.'

Fair access to care

The white paper identified issues around national variations in eligibility criteria, which had produced inconsistent and unfair funding decisions. It outlined plans to introduce 'Fair access to care' guidance, that would set out the principles that local authorities should follow when devising and applying eligibility criteria by 1 April 2001.

There was a pledge to extend direct payments to people aged 65 years and over. Direct payments would be available to those who were assessed as needing day care, home care or short stays in residential homes.

Social care and carers

The government committed to establishing a new partnership grant of £650m to foster greater joint working between health and social care in providing rehabilitation services. £100m over 3 years would be given to local authorities to develop preventative services strategies and effective risk assessments. The paper also committed to developing a National Carers Strategy.

Regulation and standards

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
  • council-run homes.

The white paper introduced a long-term care charter setting out national standards that people and carers could expect from their health, housing and social care services. It proposed to establish a General Social Care Council (GSCC) to set practice and raise standards in the social care workforce.


Department of Health.
Modernising social services: Promoting independence, improving protection, raising standards.
HMSO; 1998.