The Legal and Social Life of Care Standards Regulation

Funded by a seed award from the Wellcome Trust, this project is a ‘proof of concept’ study to examine if regulation in the field of social care research impacts upon employment standards and job quality. Led by Dr Lydia Hayes, the project will also be supported by two LawLab Research Associates for 12 months.

Poor quality employment for careworkers damages the quality of adult social care provision. By investigating the socio-legal capacity for care standards regulation to influence the quality of careworkers’ jobs, this project supports practical improvement in service delivery and will expand regulatory know-how. The research is an interdisciplinary proof-of-concept study investigating how the legal regulation of care standards shapes the job content and terms and conditions of careworkers. Making comparison across three UK nations, its context is the ‘struggle to get people to work in the care sector and retain them’ (Age U.K 2017:55). It advances a novel research agenda in a regulatory landscape characterised by the clear and urgent social connectedness of care quality to job quality (Francis, 2013) and the legal separation of employment standards from care standards.

Taking a comparative approach, the project will work with inspectors, commissioners and employers to explore how the ‘social life’ of care standards regulation shapes careworkers’ employment and impacts on care quality in so doing. It begins by mapping legal regulations / regulatory systems and then examines how social care standards are dynamically interpreted/translated at different levels of regulatory systems (i.e. in the social practices of inspection, service commissioning and hiring careworkers).