The challenge

Recent legislative changes re-introduced Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection of Councils in England after a hiatus of more than a decade – this duty came into effect in April 2023. 

This means that Adult Social Care (ASC) services’ capacity to dispense their statutory responsibilities to residents will be closely assessed. The CQC has simultaneously re-designed their assessment criteria into a new Single Assessment Framework (SAF) and developed a range of guidance. 

Brent’s ASC Department needed to undertake a rapid stocktake of their current performance against the CQC’s detailed assessment criteria, identify priority areas for improvement, and start to action these. There was also a need to formalise and embed this assurance process as part of the Department’s business-as-usual operation to drive continuous improvement. This is not just about achieving a good rating – it is part of the council’s commitment to continuous improvement for all of those it serves.

Our approach 

We used guidance from the Local Government Association  (LGA) to rapidly deliver a Department-wide ‘self-assessment’ which combined a full spectrum of evidence – performance metrics, resident and service-user feedback, engagement with staff from the frontline to the management team, policies and procedures, case audits, and any other relevant evidence – to provide an understanding of strengths, weaknesses, and ongoing improvement work for each of nine CQC ‘Quality Statements’ against which the Department will be inspected. 

We worked with the Council’s Performance & Insight team to deliver a ‘CQC Datapack’ summarising performance against the quality statements and identifying gaps in data collection. 

We drove the identification of gaps in the CQC’s ‘Information Return’ – a set of required documentation – and initiated work to address these gaps as an urgent priority. 

Finally, we designed a comprehensive CQC communications and engagement strategy with tailored approaches for five key groups; residents, service users, frontline staff, leaders and members, and partners. We engaged with staff through a range of channels, from newsletters to group sessions, to ensure they were aware of legislative changes, to demystify the inspection process, to answer any questions, and to give them an opportunity to feed their experience of working in the Department into the self-assessment.  

Our impact

Through delivering the above, keeping a record of the approach taken, and learning from the experience, we designed a fully-fledged permanent CQC Assurance Programme and handed it over to a designated internal colleague. We continue to work with the Department to ensure a smooth handover.  

By taking a rigorous approach to understanding the Department’s position, our work allowed Brent’s ASC Department to prioritise transformation and improvement work according to areas of concern as dictated by the CQC framework and ultimately, the Department’s statutory duties.  

By concurrently developing a permanent programme based on lessons learnt in delivering the self-assessment, we helped the Department embed the assurance process such that improvement work is prioritises the delivery of core ASC duties.