Our survey examines social care professionals knowledge of quangos

An exclusive Community Care survey tested the sector’s knowledge of three key bodies: the Care Services Improvement Partnership, the Improvement and Development Agency and the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Anabel Unity Sale examines the results

Over the past nine years the government has produced a plethora of initiatives, policies and monitoring mechanisms to improve
social care services. There has been a specific focus on driving up the quality of the sector’s work, culminating in last year’s radical joint health and social care white paper.

Alongside this has come the creation of agencies to monitor, advise and help social care workers and organisations do their jobs. These range from the General Social Care Council and its three UK counterparts to the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

But can social care practitioners tell their HC (Healthcare Commission) from their Nimhe (National Institute for Mental Health in England)? Do they know what each body does? And what impact does it have on their practice? Our survey results found that 178 individuals said they believed the organisations overlapped in terms of priorities and purposes.

Here we sum up each organisation’s remit and find out what practitioners and managers really think.

Care Services Improvement Partnership
Annual budget: £42m, two-thirds of which comes from the Department of Health, and £21m going to Nimhe.

Launch date and remit: Launched by the Department of Health in 2005, the purpose of CSIP is to help services implement
national policies for local benefit. It aims to support the improvement of adult services to achieve better outcomes for service users; help people live more independently by promoting choice, control and equality; and support how the social care and health systems fit together. It incorporates seven programmes, including Nimhe, the Valuing People Support Team and the
Integrated Care Network.

Are practitioners aware of CSIP? Our research found 22 per cent of respondents knew of it. Richard Humphries, chief
executive of CSIP, is the first to admit the agency is not as well known among practitioners as other bodies. He says: “They
ask ‘what has CSIP ever done for us?’. ” The answer, he explains, lies in creating a culture that brings together  practitioners and service users to share knowledge. He says, although CSIP’s profile has lagged behind the delivery of its programmes, it does not exist to self-promote. “In a sense it doesn’t matter if people haven’t heard of us, it’s about the impact of what we are achieving rather than having the ‘right’ profile.”

View from the front line: Sarah Baalham, a customer care manager for Suffolk Council, admits to knowing “very little” about CSIP. However, she thinks it concentrates too much on health. “It looks like most other DH initiatives – it seems to focus on the NHS with social care an afterthought.”

What has CSIP achieved? It works with local authorities, NHS trusts, primary care trusts and the voluntary sector. According
to Humphries, some of its greatest efforts have been on helping to implement hospital discharge and direct payments,  individualised budgets and the common assessment framework.

Problems faced: The organisational change in the NHS has “slowed down and obscured” some of its moves to improve services, says Humphries.

Future work: Implementing the joint white paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say and the local government white paper are a big part of CSIP’s future plans.

Improvement and Development Agency
Annual budget: £25m from the Department for Communities and Local Government and raises a further £25m from other sources. IDeA’s strategic adviser for children, adults and health services, Andrew Cozens, has a budget of £1.4m, 60 per cent of which goes on children’s services.

Launch date and remit: In 1999, IDeA was established as a separate company within the Local Government Association. It focuses on assisting councillors and local government managers and workforces, making links between these parties. It also works across adults’ and children’s services in England. It operates a leadership academy programme for councillors and advises councils on improving customer service and value for money. It runs several initiatives, including the Beacon scheme, to identify excellence and innovation in local authorities.

Are practitioners aware of IDeA? Thirtyone per cent of respondents were aware of what IDeA does. Cozens says the nature of the organisation’s work makes it more likely to be known by those in more senior positions in local authorities. Its website and the weekly e-mail for its IDeA Knowledge update are two ways it reaches the sector.

View from the front line: Baalham receives the update, although she says its use to her is minimal because there is little social care coverage.

What has IDeA achieved? For Cozens the biggest achievement is local politicians feeling equipped to tackle the leadership
challenges they face. He says: “It is about how we help managers at all levels within the authority, that we are with them on all parts of their journey and we are one page ahead of them.” Cozens says IDeA evaluates all its activities, events and its website and feedback and has found that its audience makes an active choice to search out IDeA and its information.

Problems faced: Focusing on and meeting the high demand for its services and products as Cozens’s department has only 24 staff.

Future work: Shaping its future work programme, looking at how the NHS and local authorities work together on IDeA’s
healthy communities programme and doing more around commissioning.

Social Care Institute for Excellence
Annual budget: £7.8m.

Launch date and remit: October 2001 saw the creation of Scie, a charity with the remit to set the knowledge base for the social care sector through research; determine good practice; and disseminate it among practitioners, service users, students, trainers, carers and inspectors within the UK. Scie covers children’s and adults’ services.

Are practitioners aware of Scie? Survey found 77 per cent of respondents knew about Scie.

View from the front line: Baalham says Scie produces some excellent research on its website but often finds the reports too
long to look through. Val Brooks, a service team leader for Thorneywood Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Nottingham, praises Scie’s website: “The resources/ publications inform both practitioners in terms of clinical work and managers in the planning of services.”

Chris Brazendale, social worker on the Keighley assessment team at Bradford Council, says he is aware of Scie. “It produces
some good guidance materials for those studying social work. Other than that it does not have a great impact on my work.”
As to CSIP and IDeA, he replied: “I’m afraid you’ll have to spell out their full names as just from the initials I haven’t heard of them!”

What has Scie achieved? Scie’s chief executive, Bill Kilgallon, is proud that the number of website users rose from 250,000 in 2004-5 to 500,000 in 2005-6. “We have excellent products, rigorously researched, are authoritative, practical and involve practitioners and users,” he says. He adds that the organisation’s strongest point is its independence because it lends its research credibility.

Problems faced: Telling the myriad social care organisations that Scie exists and can be of use has been problematic,  according to Kilgallon. “People are busy and we know how much pressure they are under.”

Future work: A significant ambition is to influence social care practice, says Kilgallon. Although Scie knows people are accessing its research findings, they want to know practitioners are using what they learn. The agency also plans to run focus groups for domiciliary care workers to find out how it can best engage them. The number of agencies that social care
staff – from front-line practitioners to senior managers – can turn to for support, information and advice may seem mindboggling. But, for some, this breadth of choice is important. Wendy Dare, a project worker at NCH Hertfordshire leaving care service in Hatfield, says: “It means we have a choice if we make contact with these agencies. It is better to have more than one choice; there is a place for them all in their own way.”

Contact the author
 Anabel Unity Sale

This article appeared in the 2 November issue, under the headline “Do you know your quangos”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.