§ Lord Mancroft
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What plans they have for developing the inspection of health and social services in Northern Ireland.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield)
The Citizen's Charter recognises the key role played by public service inspectorates in checking standards and ensuring that the professional services which the public receives are delivered in the most effective way possible and genuinely meet the needs of the people they serve. The charter puts forward three key principles for inspectorates: independence, lay involvement and openness.
In August 1993 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State issued a consultation paper, Improving Inspections, which set out proposals for the entrenchment of each of these principles in the inspection of health and social services in Northern Ireland. The paper received a wide circulation among interested parties and attracted a generally favourable response. Having considered the comments made we have now issued a circular which provides that inspectorates will remain at arm's length from the management of services and that, from April 1995, lay people will play a full part in many inspections. It also reinforces earlier guidance in requiring that inspection reports should be published. I have placed a copy of the circular in the Library of the House.
The new requirements extend both to health and social services boards' registration and inspection units and to the social services inspectorate of the Department of Health and Social Services. The latter has been publishing its reports of inspections on particular areas of practice for some time, and has already begun user involvement in certain inspections. We believe that these changes will give inspectors a stronger influence on services and help the public form their own judgments.