Last year, we featured the launch of the ‘Driving Up Quality‘ code, developed by an alliance of people and organisations committed to ensuring that the kind of abuse of people with learning disabilities uncovered at Winterbourne View could never happen again.
The idea behind the code was to outline what good support looks like and provide examples of good and bad practice. Having signed up to the code, organisations committed to a process of self assessment, but organisations were also encouraged to use Experts by Experience or other mechanisms for independent verification of what they are saying in their self assessments. Also central to signing up to the code was to be open to challenge from people using the services of the organisation and to commit to action planning for development based on the findings of self assessment.
One year on from the launch, Choice Support, one of the agencies that was instrumental in early days of the Driving up Quality initiative have published its progress report, based on its self assessment. We felt it would be good to take a look at this report and consider how far the code is helping to drive up quality.
The driving up quality code requires a self assessment at the heart of the process and Choice support set out in the report that they held three self-assessment days in November 2013, and four self-assessment days in Wakefield, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, with further events planned in other localities in which Choice Support offer services before the end of the year.
The self assessment guidance provides a clear set of principles upon which to use the self assessment process, requiring organisations to be reflective, honest, open and inclusive.
For each of the five areas, the code has examples of what constitutes ‘good practice’ followed by a series of questions to help the organisation reflect on how their own performance relates to that description.
The report, as a summary of action plan outcomes, offers little detail of the way the self assessment was carried out, but does comment on the fact that as the organisation is becoming more experienced in what it takes to run the process, the days are becoming more inclusive, with people supported, their families, commissioners and housing providers being involved. The organisation plans to work with the Q-Kit quality checking team later this year for a more independent view of progress of actions.
Progress against each of the five areas in the code is reported on:
1. Support is focused on the person
Under this area, the report talks about the production of a guide for staff to clarify issues on spending time with the people they support outside of paid work, further individualising the involvement in recruitment and job descriptions and roles, along with the introduction of a new values test for potential staff and the creation of a Volunteer Coordinator post to support people to recruit and train their own volunteers.
2. The person is supported to have an ordinary and meaningful life
Under this area, actions included a renewed commitment to person centred active support, with the recruitment of a coordinator as part of the Positive Behaviour Support team,
3. Care and support focuses on people being happy and having a good quality of life
Under this area, the organisation reports some progress towards having the views of people supported taken into account during appraisals and probationary periods and the engagement of two family carers for three years to work with staff in all of our regions to help managers and support staff to build more effective partnerships.
4. A good culture is important to the organisation
As one of the key points that came out of the self assessment from families was a desire to be heard and have experience and knowledge valued, the organisation created a Families Lead to manage a team of three family workers to plan and design support.
5. Managers and board members lead and run the organisation well
Not surprisingly, as this is a theme echoed across many organisations, initial feedback suggested a need for senior managers and trustees to be more
visible across the organisation and the organisation have used Skype to be present at team meetings and had meet the SMT days holding small group and larger team meetings across two days.
Conclusion and comment
Reflecting on the experience, the author of the report, who is the director of quality for the organisation, considered the inconsistencies in the approach to driving up quality found across the organisation. However, she believes that working with the code is one way to improve consistency and is keen to keep the Code high on the organisation’s agenda.
Reading through the report, there is a real sense of action on some key areas relating to individualised and personalised support. There is a danger that a process of self assessment will always seek to accentuate the positive and there is a real sense of that in the report. The self assessment process itself though, if taken seriously by an organisation should allow an opportunity for reflection. If managed in an inclusive way it should also offer the opportunity for a range of perspectives to be offered on what is happening in the organisation.
The fact that there is both a commitment to action and to reporting on that action is to be applauded. The fact that the report is in the public domain offers an opportunity for those involved in the organisation to offer comment or to challenge findings from their own perspective.
It would be good to see some of those comments and/or challenges appear as part of the public record as well.
It also struck me that whilst the report offers some information on what Choice Support is doing under each of the headings, by necessity in such a short report covering so many areas, there is little opportunity for detail on the how; what went well and what could have been differently. If one of the key aims of the alliance is share good practice, it might be good to have a focus on one key area and perhaps drill down into that area in more detail.
Signing up to the code offers the opportunity to use a self assessment process to reflect and develop, but I imagine there are many organisations that may significant support to be as honest, open or perhaps skilled in reflecting on where they are and where they need to be and it is perhaps in these organisations that the code could be most effective in identifying where things are not going well.
Maguire S. Driving Up Quality Code Self-Assessment First Update on Actions. Choice Support, 2014.