The social services inspectorate is headed by an acting director, who was recruited on a temporary secondment from the social services inspectorate in Northern Ireland and commenced work on a part time basis in April 1999. He was tasked with setting up the social services inspectorate, including the recruitment and training of a team of three inspectors, who commenced employment in September 1999. The initial period after training was spent developing draft standards and developing inspection instruments in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, the health boards and other parties who have an interest in the matter. A pilot inspection was carried out in a children's residential centre in the South Eastern Health Board. Since that time the inspectorate has carried out a further 15 inspections, including a pre-opening inspection of the new special care unit at Ballydowd. There are over 30 residential homes to be inspected. The number of children's residential homes run directly by the health boards is set to increase as the voluntary sector reduces its involvement in residential child care so the initial round of inspections may take longer than originally planned. This inspection programme has been the main focus of the inspectorate's work over the current year although the inspectorate has also provided professional comment and advice in relation to a number of policy developments and assisted the health boards with advice on specialist topics. The inspectorate has prepared an overview report of its findings to date and this is due to be launched on Tuesday, 10 October.
The plans for the inspectorate were that it would concentrate for the first three years on child care, and in particular on the inspection of children's residential centres run by the health boards. A fourth inspector has recently been recruited to assist with monitoring the implementation of the new national guidelines for the protection and welfare of children. When the initial round of inspections has been completed, it is planned that the inspectorate will turn its attention to other areas of child care service, such as foster care, within the next two years. In the longer term it is planned that the work of the inspectorate will be extended to cover the full range of personal social services provided by the health boards.