Q. Why do we need minimum care standards?
A. The development of minimum care standards will provide service users with a clear understanding of the quality of services they should receive. Service providers can be confident that registration, inspection, complaints investigation and enforcement will be based on consistent standards across Northern Ireland. The introduction of minimum care standards will promote a consistently higher quality of care.
Q. How will the standards be used?
A. The new Regulation and Improvement Authority will inspect services against the Standards drawn up by the Standards Development Task Group.
Q. When will the minimum care standards be introduced?
A. The Regulation and Improvement Authority is scheduled to begin in April 2005. Minimum standards for newly regulated services will be introduced after this date. New standards for services that are currently regulated may be introduced as they are completed and published.
Q. How is the work on minimum standards being taken forward?
A. The DHSSPS has recruited a team of 6 Project Officers whose role is to coordinate the development of regional, minimum care standards for regulated and non-regulated services. This team will consult extensively with the HPSS, providers, service users, carers and professionals as well as undertaking an analysis of standards already developed here and elsewhere. Proposed standards will be subject to consultation, economic appraisal and regulatory impact assessment. Subsequently, standards will need to be reviewed and updated regularly.
Q. How can I get involved in the standard setting process?
A. Interested parties, including service users and carers, have been asked to nominate people to contribute to the process. Those nominated will be invited to become members of working groups, reference groups or groups convened to look at specific issues. Once a broad range and number of nominations have been submitted, a series of different groups will be set up, ensuring that all major stakeholders will be represented. If you have not received a nomination form you can request one from the Standards Development Task Group.
Q. What is the relationship between the standards and the Regulations?
A. The practical relationship between the Regulations and the minimum standards is very important. The Regulations, which are being drawn up in tandem with the standards, will be mandatory and regulated services will have to comply with them. Taken together, and in conjunction with the requirements set out in other relevant legislation, the Regulations and standards constitute the way a provider or agency should operate to provide a quality service. The standards must be taken into account by the Regulation and Improvement Authority when taking any regulatory decision.
Q. Will there be costs involved in meeting the new standards?
A. Yes. Information on the costs of implementing the standards will be provided through the regulatory impact assessment procedures. In setting fee levels for regulated services the DHSSPS and the Regulation and Improvement Authority will wish to take account of the experience elsewhere, particularly in England, Scotland and Wales, to assess the possible impact of the level of fees and charges on service provision.
Q. Will the Supported Living Projects be subject to standards drawn up by the Standards Development Task Group.
A. Where personal care is delivered to those in Supported Living Projects it will be regulated under the arrangements for inspecting Domiciliary Care Agencies. Supported Living Projects will also be inspected by the NIHE. The SDTG is working in partnership with the NIHE so that there will be minimal duplication of inspection activity.
Q. For what period of time will minimum standards be fixed or remain the same?
A. The government is committed to a process of regular review of minimum care standards. Reviews of some sets of standards may be initiated in response to feedback from service users, providers or regulators.