Care Standards Act 2000

The Care Standards Act 2000 received royal assent in July 2000. The Act reformed the regulatory system for care services in England, replacing the arrangements set out in the Registered Homes Act 1984, which was repealed.

A new, independent regulatory body

Following a recommendation made by the Royal Commission on Long Term Care in 1999, the Act established a new, independent regulatory body for social care and private and voluntary healthcare services. This was named the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC).

The commission would be responsible for the regulation of a wide range of care services including:

  • care homes
  • domiciliary care
  • fostering and adoption agencies
  • independent hospitals.

The commission had a general duty to advise and keep the secretary of state informed of the availability and quality of care services. The commission also had the ability to advise the secretary of state of changes needed to improve the quality of local authority care services.

The commission also had a role in encouraging quality improvement by inspecting all independent health providers, such as private hospitals and care services providers, including both local authority and privately run residential care homes.

The inspections would be carried out using a set of National Minimum Standards (NMS). NMS covered a range of services, such as care quality, food and entertainment, and the commission had powers to take enforcement action.

The Social Services Inspectorate within the Department of Health continued to inspect the broad statutory functions of social services departments.

Star ratings for social services departments commenced in May 2002. The decision to split the regulation of healthcare by giving responsibility for private healthcare providers to the NCSC, rather than to the Commission for Health Improvement, was not universally supported.

During parliamentary debates on the Act, the government was accused of 'ingrained ideological unwillingness' to accept that there was a mixed economy in healthcare. This position was later reversed with the establishment of the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection.

Workforce regulation

The Act provided for the regulation of the social care workforce by establishing a General Social Care Council for England. The council:

  • maintained a register of social care staff
  • regulated the training of social workers
  • published codes of conduct and best practice guidance to raise standards.

The council was replaced in 2012 by the Health and Care Professions Council.

The Act also provided for the secretary of state to maintain a list of individuals who were considered unsuitable to work with vulnerable adults. In 2003/04, the introduction of a degree-level qualification for social workers was accompanied by the mandatory professional registration with the GSCC in 2005.

In parallel, the profession of social worker became protected. Only those registered with the GSCC could work as, or claim to be, a social worker. The issue of the regulation of other social care workers, many of whom were unqualified and had received variable training, was not resolved by the GSCC, and was the subject of reports like the Cavendish Review in 2013.

Later developments

In July 2010, the government decided to transfer the function of professional regulation of social workers to the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), which was a multi-professional regulatory body. The regulation of social workers moved to the HCPC on 1 August 2012, following the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 and the GSCC was closed.

Source(s)

House of Commons.
Care Standards Act 2000.
leglisation.gov.uk; 2000.

House of Commons.
Care Standards Bill [H.L.] [10 Jan 2000]: Column: 418.
Hansard; 2000.