Sixty Second Interview with Alexis Jay
Alexis Jay is chief social work inspector at the new Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA) which officially took over from the existing Social Work Services Inspectorate (SWSI) last week.
The SWSI was created in the wake of two high profile cases: the death of 11-week-old Caleb Ness in Edinburgh and the Borders inquiry conducted by the SWSI and the Mental Welfare Commission. Both highlighted systematic failures and neither reflected well on the organisations involved. After these inquiries it was also decided that the SWSI’s remit did not go far enough.
Why is a new agency needed?
In setting up SWIA (Social Work Inspection Agency), ministers responded to demands from across the social care sector for a more independent, better resourced and more systematic approach to inspection of social work services.
What will be your priority areas during your first year in post?
The formal work programme priority areas for inspection during the first year will be:
• The pilot inspection of local authority services
• The inspection of learning disability services (following the Scottish Borders case last year)
• The continuation of the programme of inspection of local authority criminal justice services
At an organisation level, we must establish the new agency with its own identity and structure. We also need to ensure that working protocols are in place with other key agencies involved in inspection and regulation to avoid overlap and duplication of effort. Good relationships will also need to be established with other stakeholders – users, carers, local authorities, providers, to name a few.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection has worked hard to make its inspections more service user focused, does the SWIA also plan to try and do this?
We are absolutely committed to making inspection more outcome focussed on the improvement in quality of life for the end users of services. And examining how the energies of local authorities are directed towards achieving this.
We are also very keen to involve service users in the process in a variety of different ways. We will seek their views on, for example, inspection methodologies and how they might become involved in the inspection process.
The government recently announced that the Commission for Social Care inspection will be dismantled and Ofsted will take over its children’s function and its adult function will be merged with the Healthcare Commission. Do you anticipate inspection of children’s and adult’s services in Scotland being split between separate bodies in the future and if so, do you think it would be a good move?
Ministers in Scotland made a positive choice in creating the new Inspection Agency to create an organisation which would inspect all aspects of social work services. We consider this an important contribution to strengthening the profession and driving up standards.
The 21st Century Review of Social Work, which is due to report later this year, will make a number of recommendations, including proposals for a new performance framework for social work services. The Social Work Inspection Agency will take on the role of validating this framework.