SCOTLAND's care ­watchdog is planning to recruit 100 members of the public to help drive up standards in homes for the elderly.

The Care Inspectorate already has about 70 lay assessors, whose role is to talk to residents and their families to find out how they feel about the care they are receiving.

This autumn it will launch a campaign to recruit another 100 volunteers - particularly in rural areas - who will mostly inspect care homes for the elderly.

The move comes in the wake of high-profile cases of abuse of the elderly in care homes in recent years. In the latest example, 11 people were arrested last week on suspicion of the manslaughter of an 86-year-old woman at a Nottingham home.

Ivy Atkin died on November 22, 2012, shortly after moving out of Autumn Grange care home, which closed after its council contract was suspended. Six of those arrested were subsequently bailed.

According to figures from the Care ­Inspectorate, in 2011/12 half of care homes in Scotland achieved the top two grades for the quality of care and support provided.

However, enforcement notices - issued when regulations are breached - were served on 17 care homes in that year. The care-home sector accounted for more than a third of all the 47 enforcement notices issued by inspectors, followed by childminding, which had 16 such notices issued.

A spokeswoman for Age Scotland welcomed the increase in scrutiny the extra lay assessors would bring, but cautioned it should not just be a "box-ticking exercise".

She added: "It is a stressful time when people make the decision to move into a care home, and many have concerns about how they or their family members will be treated and whether their rights, preferences and lifestyle choices will be respected.

"It is important that people have contact with the Care ­Inspectorate, are listened to and that the care home will be held to account if anything goes wrong."

She added: "We hope that this will be a step towards the end of the terrible abuse stories we have heard over the last few years."

Annette Bruton, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said problems often stemmed from failing to seek the views of those who are being cared for.

She said: "Our inspectors are experts by professional training, but our lay assessors are experts by experience. Having people with direct experience of using care services on an inspection can really break down barriers.

"Little changes can make a big difference to people's lives, but some residents feel they don't want to bother an inspector with small problems. They are often much more willing to share it with a lay assessor who may have experienced similar themselves."

She added: "Most care homes do perform well, but often the biggest reason for something going wrong is that somebody somewhere didn't ask the people being cared for - and that is exactly what our lay assessors do.

"Some of our lay assessors are people who currently use care services, and others have a parent or loved ones in a care home, or perhaps did in the past.

"I would like to recruit a small army of passionate, dedicated people who want to use their own personal experiences to make life better for others."