On Wednesday, I attended the launch of ‘Quality Matters’. This initiative is a shared commitment for everyone who uses, works in, and supports adult social care, and sets out a way to come together to improve the quality of care and support. We are proud endorsers of it and we supported its development through the Care Provider Alliance, along with CQC, ADASS, LDE, NHS England – to name a few (see Top Stories for further information – the whole document and what is sets out.)

Now, I know what you may be thinking… another commitment, another charter, another initiative. But, this one is different. It is pushing for a single shared view of quality wherever you are in the sector, promotes the idea that it will only succeed through our continued collaboration and not one single person is responsible for owning it. We all do.

A diverse mix of people attended the launch event and was reflective of who can and should play a part in this, from commissioners to providers, to people who access support, carers, staff and representatives from national bodies such as CQC, Skills for Care, SCIE, Healthwatch and so on. A cross section of key partners needed to bring the ethos of the Quality Matters document to life!

During the launch, there was a panel Q&A – the panel consisted of Clenton Farquharson (Chair of TLAP), Stuart Rowles and his support worker John Read, Andrea Sutcliffe (Chief Inspector, ASC, CQC), Margaret Wilcox (President, ADASS), Sharon Allen (CEO, Skills for Care), Jo-anne Wilson (Galanos House), Bridget Warr (Chair, CPA), Gillian Leng (Deputy Chief Executive, NICE). The panel debate was engaging, funny, moving and inspiring all at the same time. Amongst some brilliant and engaging stories from her career (starring goats and dogs!), Margaret Wilcox spoke about how social care is perceived and understood. She was right in saying that people working in health, (in whatever capacity), use health whereas people who work in social care don’t tend to use it – so they don’t truly or fully understand it. Social care is designed and run by people who hope they’ll never have to use it. Good point. That’s like designing a car but not being able to drive or experience it. Margaret asked; if you could decide what a social care service looked like, if YOU were going to use it, how would it be shaped? What would we see? Food for thought and reflection I think.

There was plenty of talk about the profile of social care during the couple of hours we were there, and quite rightly so. All of us had a little voting pad and we had to vote on a few questions during the session. The first question proper was on where we thought the most important place to start (to improve quality) was, based on the 6 principles set out in the document. And ‘improving the profile of adult social care’ came a strong third, behind ‘acting on feedback, concerns and compliments’ and ‘better support for improvement’. In my opinion, if social care were as high profile as the beloved NHS then maybe we wouldn’t be at the crisis point we are at. And that links nicely back to Margaret’s point, we engage with health services from the day we are born, social care becomes relevant when we need it and there in lies the issue.

Another question was aimed at identifying our thoughts on the biggest barrier to improving quality – interestingly ‘there is not enough money’ came third. The most voted for was – ‘adult social care sector is not joined up’. To clarify, people were in agreement that there is not enough joined up work with health, rather than with each other, I think we’d all agree that is plain to see. The leadership reference was strong too with ‘needing better leadership’ coming second. “Leadership is what happens when you are not there”. Very true. Enabling staff to lead in the absence of the manager is critical. So attracting good staff and having a stable workforce therefore is key – that again links back to the profile issue in my humble opinion…

There is plenty more within ‘Quality Matters’ of course, there are six priorities and seven steps to improve quality. I encourage you to take ten minutes out and have a look at it. None of it will be a revelation to you I am sure. What we are talking about here is nothing new. What is refreshing though is that finally in one place, in one carefully considered initiative, we have the opportunity to have a joined up conversation and pull in the same direction. Collaboration is key; improving quality in adult social care is something that we can all contribute to – to bring Quality Matters to life, we all need to ask ourselves how, and make it happen on a practical level if we want to see real change for the sector.

I’d welcome any comments you have on it or suggestions how we could support you and your teams– feel free to drop me a line at any time – lisa.lenton@arcuk.org.uk

Have a great weekend


Lisa Lenton
ARC England Director