§ Dr. Starkey
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to support and inform care home owners during the introduction of national minimum standards. 
§ Jacqui Smith
I have today launched a package of measures to help the smooth introduction of the national minimum standards. This comprises(i) Comprehensive statutory guidance from Ministers under section 6 of the Care Standards Act to the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) setting out the supportive way in which the standards should be applied. The guidance indicates that the standards should be used to help guide care homes on action they can take to improve their services. Time will be given to enable homes to meet the standards. Failure to meet standards will only be used as a reason to pursue de-registration in cases where services are a danger to vulnerable people.(ii) An information pack will be distributed to all registered care providers during February explaining how the national minimum standards and regulations will be operated and how the NCSC will work.(iii) A help line will be set up by the NCSC next month to answer questions from owners and managers of care homes about how the national minimum standards might apply to their service.
The NCSC has been set up to encourage the provision of good quality care in care homes, not to close them down. This package is designed to help the NCSC achieve that.