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Social Workers Express Deep Concern at the Resignation of RQIA Board

The British Association of Social Workers Northern Ireland (BASW NI) is deeply concerned at the series of events which have resulted in the resignation of the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) Board. The Association welcomes Health Minister Robin Swann’s announcement that an independent review into the mass resignations will be conducted.

All nine members of the Board have resigned, as BASW NI understands, following concern that they were not consulted about decisions to redeploy key RQIA staff and to stand down inspections and visits to care homes during lockdown. It is very unfortunate that the board felt the need to take such drastic action and BASW NI is concerned about the impact on public confidence in the leadership of Health and Social Care (HSC).

Given the highly infectious nature of COVID-19, it is appropriate that the delivery of HSC services has adapted to minimise the risk of spreading the virus between staff and service users. BASW NI supports the decision taken by Health and Social Care Trusts in the early stages of the pandemic to reduce social work visits to instances where engagement via electronic means was either impossible or presented a risk to the safety of service users.

While it is essential the dangers posed by coronavirus are reduced as far as possible, it is vital that the standards of care provided to care home residents are upheld. The risks posed by failure to conduct thorough inspections into standards of care are very real. BASW NI believes regulatory inspections by the RQIA should have continued, with staff conducting inspections using appropriate personal protective equipment to minimise the possibility of infection both to themselves, residents, and care home staff.

BASW NI notes the appointment of a new Chair of RQIA, Christine Collins, and wishes her well at this most challenging of times. As always, BASW NI seeks to work in partnership to support the safeguarding and wellbeing of the vulnerable people who use HSC services. The needs of those who are cared for in residential facilities are paramount.

BASW NI welcomes the announcement made by the Department for Health on 22 June that restrictions placed on the work of the RQIA have been lifted. As HSC responds to the easing of lockdown and plans for delivery of services in the months and years ahead, it is vital that prompt and open communication is maintained between all HSC stakeholders.