The independent regulation of residential services for people with disabilities is a milestone day for Ireland, the health watchdog has claimed.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will begin inspecting facilities within weeks and have the power to close any residential or respite home which consistency fails new standards.
It is the first time residential services for children and adults with disabilities, run by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and private and voluntary services, will be subject to independent inspection.
Phelim Quinn, Hiqa's director of regulation, said: "This is a landmark moment for children and adults with disabilities and their family members living in Ireland.
"It is the first time that residential services for people with disabilities will be subject to independent scrutiny.
"From now on, children and adults who use disability services and their families will know what they should expect, and service providers will know what is expected of them in delivering a person-centred, high quality and safe service."
Approximately 9,800 children and adults with a disability live in 1,300 residential care services run by 88 service providers across Ireland. All must be registered with Hiqa.
Inspectors visit each home - announced or unannounced - in the day, evening, weekend and even overnight and speak to residents, their families, staff and managers.
Hiqa said they will focus on the experience of the person living in the residential service, what it is like to live there, and observe daily routines, quality of accommodation and meals.
Each service must meet a range of new standards - 30 for children's services and 30 for adults - under eight themes including individualised support and care, safe services, and health and development.
Reports will be published after every inspection and Hiqa has the legal authority - under the Health Act 2007 - to take a number of actions if standards are not met, including closure.
"As with its inspection of residential services for older people, if the Health Information and Quality Authority's inspectors find that a service is unsafe, or the National Standards and regulations are not being met, it will have the legal power to take a number of actions in the best interest of those living in the residential service," it warned.
"This may include refusal to register the service, prosecution, the placing of additional registration conditions and, in situations where there is significant risk to the life or to the health or welfare of residents, immediate cancellation of the service's registration."