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Inspection and participation
Inspections by the Care Inspectorate in Scotland shifted in focus when it began to grade services for their quality. Grades are published with the inspection report, and ranged from '6, Excellent' to '1, Unsatisfactory'. The service is judged partly on involving people in how it operates, and the participation of people meant that their opinion is listened to and is used to contribute to how the quality of the service is developed.
A high quality home involves people in the inspection process itself: by including their views in the self-assessment submitted before the inspection; by encouraging service users to give their views directly to the inspector; and sharing and discussing the way forward with the final inspection report.
As an inspector, this suited my approach. Yes, we did have to sit down and go through a massive pile of documentation and interviewing staff was also a lengthy process. But the most rewarding and useful part of the inspection I found was in meeting with and interacting with service users.
Taking part in group activities and meetings gave me very useful observed information and feedback from service users. People are more open and confident in you when you are jointly participating with them in activity. It’s different from sitting down one to one for a formal talk with the inspector.
Traditional social research
This aspect of inspection is in line with traditional approaches in social research. For example, Appreciative Inquiry is a model which has produced effective change in the Health services. It is said to 'erase the winner/loser paradigm in favour of coordinated actions and closer relationships that lead to solutions at once simpler and more effective.'
Similarly, the 'participant observer' approach has been acknowledged as a successful approach in social research, allowing fundamental insights not attainable by traditional means.
A better inspection?
These approaches applied in inspection ‘round out’ the participative and involving, person-centred approach expected of services. It meant, for me at least, that services could expect the same of the inspection process that the inspection genuinely involved service users and staff in the process and was thus more effective.
Services can encourage this approach by ensuring that service users have access to the inspector, even perhaps letting people know this can happen! A list of people who wish to meet with the inspector could help. Also letting the inspector know what activities or events are going on, and whether service users agree to the inspector participating. It can only lead to an easier, and more accurate outcome of the inspection.
Tony Clarke – QCS Expert Scottish Care Contributor