CSCI inspection head denies claims of service decline

A Commission for Social Care Inspection head has countered claims by Unison members that the quality of its work has deteriorated due to staff cuts and changes to working practices.

The comments of CSCI director of inspection, regulation and review Mike Rourke follow a survey of 106 Unison members. It found that nearly 80% of staff felt they had too little time to do their work and more than 80% said CSCI’s service had deteriorated since January 2008.

This was linked to staff cuts, the introduction of specialist enforcement teams to tackle poor providers and the full implementation of the Inspecting for Better Lives system, under which inspections focus on sub-standard providers and problem areas.

The number of staff fell from 2,200 last year to 1,750 in April. This will drop to 1,500 when CSCI’s functions pass to the Care Quality Commission next April.

Rourke said he understood why enforcement teams had been seen as a problem by staff because they involved taking resources from area teams, but this had been balanced by their new responsibilities.

He claimed they had helped to reduce the number of providers deemed poor by CSCI’s quality ratings from 1,030 to 561.

And the staff cuts reflected the implementation of the Inspecting for Better Lives (IBL) system, which meant CSCI carried out fewer inspections overall.

The Unison survey follows concerns raised in an equivalent poll of members in 2007 and also in last year’s official CSCI staff survey, which found that two-thirds of staff felt the inspectorate did not value them and that it did not manage change well.

However, Martin Keegan, Unison’s national convenor at CSCI, said the union had had “a very positive meeting” with Rourke after the 2008 survey was published. He added: “We are working with them to ensure all of our concerns are addressed.”

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