Safe recruitment put under the microscope by Scotland’s care watchdog

by Scott Douglas

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

One in five care services in Scotland have been found to have unsafe procedures in place for recruiting staff, according to a review by Scotland’s care regulator, the Care Commission.
Evidence was found of care staff being employed without proper checks completed on their fitness to do the job, without criminal records being checked and with references going unverified.
The findings are revealed in the Safer Recruitment for Safer Services report, which is based on a sample of 60% of the services that employ staff, and provides the first national picture of the recruitment policies, procedures and practices in Scotland’s care sector.
The report was undertaken as a result of the shared concerns of the Care Commission and the Scottish Social Services Council about the need for improved systems for recruiting staff in care services.
The report found:
• 22% of services sampled needed to improve their systems for recruitment
• More than 1600 requirements to make improvement had to be issued
• 25% of children’s services had one or more requirements
• 19% of care homes had one or more requirements
• More than 600 requirements were about references not being properly checked.
The most worrying failures identified involved Disclosure Scotland checks (which provide information on criminal convictions and investigations) not being done and employers not verifying employees’ fitness to do the job.
Marcia Ramsay, Acting Director of Adult’s Services Regulation, said: ”Above all, our work is about improving the quality of care in Scotland and keeping people safe. It’s therefore vital that recruitment into care services is done carefully and properly.
People who use services, their families and carers want to know that the many organisations that provide care take recruitment seriously.  People using care services can be very vulnerable, so it’s particularly important to be thorough – check references, qualifications and do disclosure checks.
We found that the large majority were recruiting in a safe and effective manner, but a significant minority, of just over one in five services, need to improve.
The report – which was carried out after concerns were identified over recruitment practices by both the Care Commission and the Scottish Social Services Council – reviewed 4,434 services over 2006 and 2007..
The Care Commission report recommends that all care services have robust recruitment policies and practices and follow national guidelines. It also suggests involving care service users in the recruitment of staff.
Marcia Ramsay added: “Care providers must provide the high quality of care set out in Scotland’s National Care Standards. Their ability to do so relies on recruiting the right staff.
“This report sets a benchmark on recruitment practices which we can use when we conduct another review in the near future.
“We will continue to follow up on those services where improvement was needed and encourage everyone involved to ensure recruitment into this vital sector is done properly.
“Indeed, I’m happy to report that this report ensured a number of care services improved their practices immediately and have ensured best practice is put in place for the future.”
Carole Wilkinson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Social Services Council, added:
“The SSSC Code of Practice for Employers of Social Service Workers is clear that employers must use rigorous and thorough recruitment and selection processes, making sure that only people who have the right knowledge and skills and who are suitable to provide social services are allowed to enter the workforce. 
“It is reassuring that the majority of service providers are meeting safe recruitment requirements but as the report shows there is still work to be done. We will continue to work closely with the Care Commission to make sure employers are aware of their responsibilities.”

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