The Government and health watchdog HIQA have said they will adopt a "softly-softly" approach to implementing the Republic's first national standards in residential centres for people with disabilities.

Minister of State Kathleen Lynch also said that the HIQA would deal immediately with any urgent problems identified by its inspectorate.

Friday sees the roll-out of the State's first independent registration and inspection scheme for over 1500 centres which are mostly run by charities.

They cater for almost 10,000 residents, both children and adults, with physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities.

HIQA's Director of Regulation Phelim Quinn said the watchdog had employed an additional 43 inspectors, who would be making both announced and unannounced visits to centres.

He said centres' clients and their families would be welcome to approach inspectors.

Minister for Health Mr Reilly encouraged clients and their relatives to get to know the standards that will be inspected and to inform staff in the centres when they are not.

He said if no adequate response was forthcoming, they should report the problem to HIQA which would "encourage" the service provider to implement the national standards.

"And if they fail (to implement them), they will be brought to book," he warned.

HIQA's CEO Treacy Cooper said the registration and inspection scheme would cost around €3m annually and that €1.8m of that would come from registration fees paid by service providers.

An easy-to-read, condensed version of the National Standards for Residential Services for Children and Adults with Disabilities (January 2013) is among the resources available on the HIQA website

Ms Lynch said advocates and people with disabilities had been calling for 16 years for an independent inspection regime.

She said the new scheme marks the opening of a new era for people with disabilities living in residential settings.

She also predicted that some of the 1500 or so centres will not be able to continue delivering services but emphasised that the majority are doing a good job.