Headlines: March 14th, 2006

Special ‘dignity guardians’ are to be created to toughen the regulation of social care. The move has been announced by the Care Services Minister Liam Byrne, who said the new group would include representatives from Help the Aged, Action on Elder Abuse and Which?, the consumer group.Mr. Byrne is halfway through a series of listening events with older people and the move came as Action on Elder Abuse released the results of its government funded project to map abuse of vulnerable adults in England. The Minister said the dignity guardians group and the listening events were the latest in a series of initiatives to drive up standards of care and tackle the problem of abuse.

“If we are to achieve the ambition set out in our recent white paper to help people maintain their dignity by being active and independent, then we need to ensure our regulation and standards are of the highest quality,” he told a conference in Warwick. Other measures include the registration of care workers, a new vetting and barring scheme to prevent abusers working with vulnerable adults and new freedoms for the Commission for Social Care Inspection to increase spot checks on the worst care homes.

Older people will be asked for examples of good and bad care, as well as to identify areas of service that need to be improved to promote their dignity. The move has been welcomed by Help the Aged. Its senior policy advisor Annie Stevenson said the initiative would help to empower older people. “This is a significant and welcome shift in culture within social care. It is vital that its regulation reflects older people as consumers of care, with respect for their human rights being paramount,” she said.

Mr. Byrne said he could do things from Whitehall, but local action was what mattered. “We want the rules to be on the side of people who need care not sloppy operators. Through these listening events, I plan to recruit key people in each area who can form action teams to drive forward this agenda at a local level. I see these Older People’s Champions as being integral to these teams,” he added