When researching care services in Scotland for an older person, you may see the care provider’s Care Inspectorate rating displayed online within the care provider’s premises or in printed brochures or leaflets. For example, you may have seen a Care Inspectorate rating in the results of Care Sourcer’s online care search. These ratings tell you whether a care provider’s service is deemed to be excellent, very good, good, adequate, weak, or unsatisfactory.

This guide explains more about how the Care Inspectorate inspect and rate providers, and how this information can help you to compare services and make choices about care.

What is the Care Inspectorate?

The Care Inspectorate (formally known as SCSWIS or Care Commission) is the regulatory body for care services in Scotland. It regulates a range of care and support services including child minding/child daycare, adult day care, care homes, care at home and housing support services.

By law all care providers in Scotland must be registered with the Care Inspectorate.

What does the Care Inspectorate do?

The Care Inspectorate carries out regular comprehensive inspections of all care providers in Scotland.

Providers must go through a thorough application process in order to register with the Care Inspectorate.

A Care Inspectorate inspection will include a review of:

  • information records relating to the care and support of the people using the service
  • the quality of care and support provided
  • the quality of the staff and management and the quality of the environment, if applicable.
  • feedback from people using the service and staff working in the service via phone, visits, and questionnaires

A report is compiled following the inspection and is shared with the care service first, who are given the opportunity to say if they feel the report is factual, or if they feel there are any errors with this. The final reports is then published online.

How often does the Care Inspectorate inspect providers?

All registered care providers in Scotland undergo a full inspection within their first year and then have regular annual inspections after this. Sometimes providers are inspected more regularly if there have been concerns noted about the service.

It’s important to remember that if a provider hasn’t been graded yet, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their service is not of a high standard. It is very common for new providers to remain ungraded until their first inspection which can take up to a year to occur.

Understanding Care Inspectorate ratings

The Care Inspectorate will grade the care provider on a scale of 1 to 6, against certain quality indicators:

6 Excellent     Outstanding or sector leading
5 Very good      Major strengths
4 Good Important strengths, with some areas for improvement
3 Adequate Strengths just outweigh weaknesses
2 Weak   Important weaknesses – priority action required
1 Unsatisfactory    Major weaknesses – urgent remedial action required

If any service improvements are necessary, the Care Inspectorate will issue the care provider with either a ‘recommendation’ or a ‘requirement’. The care service must then provide an action plan to show they intend to resolve any issues with the service.

If these issues are not resolved, the Care Inspectorate may issue an improvement notice. The Care Inspectorate will set a timescale for improvements and will revisit to ensure all improvements have been made. The case will not be closed until the Care Inspectorate has seen marked improvement.

If a care provider fails to make improvements within these strict timescales then the Care Inspectorate may chose to cancel the registration of the service, meaning that legally the service will no longer be permitted to provide care and support to anyone – including the people already using the service. This however is rare and a last resort.

What if a Care Inspectorate report shows complaints about a provider?

Complaints regarding a care service can be logged with the Care Inspectorate if anyone feels their concerns are not being listened to by the care provider.

If a complaint is upheld, the Care Inspectorate publish brief details on the care provider’s profile on the Care Inspectorate website. This information is available to the public.

When considering complaints, it’s important to keep an open mind and to not necessarily rule out a care provider due to complaints detailed in the providers reports or noted on the website. One individual’s negative experience could be outnumbered by hundreds of positive experiences – search online for as many first-hand reviews of the service as you can.

How else does the Care Inspectorate monitor services?

Care providers are required to send annual reports to the Care Inspectorate and notify them of any serious incidents as and when they occur. Care services must also keep a log of any incidents which have triggered a ‘duty of candour’, which is where the person using the service has been subject to harm or potential harm due to poor practice on the service provider’s behalf.

Care providers are also required to provide the Care Inspectorate with notification of any significant changes to their service such as change of directors, change of service address, etc.

How the Care Inspectorate can help when you’re looking for care in Scotland

Choosing a care provider is a big decision and there’s a lot of information to take into account, which can sometimes be confusing.

Reviewing the official report on the Care Inspectorate website provides an independent professional review of the provider, which can help you to compare services.

If a care provider has ratings that are less that ‘good’ (for example ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’) bear in mind that the Care Inspectorate will be closely monitoring this area and scrutinising it to check that improvements are made. The Care Inspectorate report will also detail any action being taken to improve the service.

Bear in mind that care providers are ungraded whilst waiting for their first inspection  and it’s also important to remember that care providers can go a year or more between inspections and a lot can change during this time.

Aside from reviewing the Care Inspectorate rating, here’s some other ways to help you decide:

  • Talk to each provider about what’s most important to you. It’s crucial that you are getting the kind of care that you want, and if you discuss your priorities with each agency then you can get a clearer idea of how exactly they can support you (here’s a handy list of six questions you should ask home care agencies about their services).
  • Ask to visit and meet some of the staff
  • Ask the care agency for any testimonials and reviews about their service.  You can also search Google for reviews about the agency.

If you are looking for care, Care Sourcer offers a searchable directory of local care agencies. If you need care urgently, our team of care experts are also available by telephone to guide you through the process.