As the Deputy may be aware, figures on the number of public nursing homes and beds are collated by my Department on an annual basis. The most recent long-stay activity statistics report was finalised in July 2004 and provides information on activity in long-stay units in 2003. According to the report, there were 12,339 long-stay beds in health board facilities, including respite beds, on 31 December 2003. This figure represents 51.8% of the long-stay bed complement with the remaining 49.2% of long-stay beds being provided in private and voluntary nursing homes. Currently, the inspection of private nursing homes is the responsibility of the health boards under the Health (Nursing Homes) Act 1990. Regulations made under this Act empower health boards to inspect private nursing homes.
The social services inspectorate, or SSI, was established in April 1999, initially on administrative basis though it is proposed to establish it on a statutory basis. The main function of the inspectorate is to support child care services by promoting and ensuring the development of quality standards. While in the longer term the SSI will monitor all personal social services operated by the health boards, it is concentrating initially on the child care area and, in particular, on the inspection of health board operated residential child care facilities. The health strategy, Quality and Fairness, states that the SSI will be established on a statutory basis and its remit will be extended to cover residential services for people with disabilities and older people. Establishing the SSI on a statutory basis will strengthen its role and will provide it with the necessary independence in the performance of its functions. It will also serve to increase public confidence in state and voluntary social services. Consultation with the Department of Finance on the statutory instrument to enable the SSI to be established on a statutory footing is in progress.