[John Robertson in the Chair] — Care Workers

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:48 am on 5th November 2014.

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Photo of Norman Lamb Norman Lamb The Minister of State, Department of Health 10:48 am, 5th November 2014

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that intervention. However, I repeat the point that it was this Government who arranged for that themed work in the care sector. A substantial sum of money was collected from employers who had broken the law and returned to their employees who had been underpaid. I repeat that I have requested that that themed work should start again. As he will understand, I do not have responsibility for HMRC. However, I have made that request and I will continue to push for that themed work to happen. Where it seems that there is clear evidence that a problem is endemic in a sector, we ought to be prepared to focus on it.

Mr Anderson talked about outsourcing. That problem did not start in 2010. Most of the outsourcing—the creation of a predominantly private sector work force—happened before 2010, and we all have to acknowledge that. It is an endemic and deep-rooted problem in the sector, which needs to be challenged effectively.

I will talk briefly about the care certificate, because another issue raised by right hon. and hon. Members is the fact that training standards are often inadequate. I must say that when I came into this job I was rather shocked to discover that there were no proper mechanisms for ensuring that employers were required to provide proper training for their staff. We are changing that situation. We commissioned Camilla Cavendish to produce a report on this issue, and we have now legislated through the Care Act 2014 for a care certificate, which will come into force next April. That certificate will set a national standard for minimum training and competence levels that every employer will have to meet. They will have to ensure that their staff either have the care certificate or something equivalent, and they will have to satisfy the Care Quality Commission that that is the case. If they cannot satisfy the CQC, it can take enforcement action against them. I am proud of the fact that we are taking decisive action to improve training standards.

Hon. Members have also raised the issue of the role of the CQC. It has the power—and Ministers have the power to request it to use that power—to carry out themed inspections of local authorities where there is evidence that commissioning is falling short, resulting in poor care. Part of poor care can sometimes be the terms and conditions offered by employers. I am determined that, if evidence of poor practice emerges, we use those powers to ensure that local authorities, as well as providers, are held to account, in order to raise the standards in this sector. We all agree that that is necessary, and that the underpayment of wages to care workers is not an acceptable practice.