Interview with new Scie chief Julie Jones

Julie Jones admits she is a “glass half full” kind of woman. Good thing too given her new role as chief executive of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (Scie), which was recently lambasted by Dame Denise Platt in the Department of Health’s Status of Social Care review.

Last month Jones took the mantle at Scie from Bill Kilgallon, because the job was “irresistible”. She was headhunted from her role as director of children’s services and deputy chief executive of Westminster Council, for whom she had worked for 25 years in various positions. “I didn’t want to be a local authority chief executive, and social care’s time has come in terms of political attention and national debate,” she says.

Attracting political attention and national debate is putting it mildly in relation to what the government – and the sector itself – think of Scie since its creation in 2000. Many have questioned what Scie actually does, a fact borne out by Platt’s review. Commissioned by care services minister Ivan Lewis, the review noted the “prime reason” for Scie’s existence is to disseminate what works in social care.

It recommends this be “a critical area for immediate development” as “quicker progress on dissemination of good practice was expected”. A startling conclusion given Scie’s raison d’être.

Is it hard to be criticised like this? “No, not at all,” says Jones. “To have this challenge as I arrived gave Scie a terrific platform for the next stage of development. The organisation is very ready to respond and has an enormous amount of knowledge about this much of it chimed with what we and the Department of Health want us to do.”

She argues that those social care professionals who use Scie’s guidance and research findings think highly of it and the organisation has a strong reputation. It is those who do not access Scie’s work – particularly the private sector – that need convincing of its worth. “We have to improve our reputation so we are better known the next phase will see more engagement with the non-statutory sector.”

As well as improving its dissemination in time for a progress meeting on 1 September, the second task set for Scie by David Behan, Department of Health director general for social care, local government and care partnerships is to establish a social care journal on a par with medical journal The Lancet.

Are these tasks achievable given the short deadline? Jones believes they are and says Scie is already looking at whether its current work programme needs reviewing or refreshing. “We are moving away from printed documents and guides because we’ve learned we have to target our work much more. We can’t just publish something and hope people look at it, we have to make sure it’s relevant and also be very aware of future policy guidance.”

One way of disseminating best practice information, Jones adds, is to do more joint working with organisations like the National Institute for Clinical Excellence and the King’s Fund. “Feedback from the workforce shows us that people find joint guidance really helpful,” she says.

Looking out from her office across the Thames, Jones is confident the organisation can move towards advising the sector on achieving good practice rather than just highlighting cases. “Scie was probably being appropriately cautious before but we are ready now and have an evidence base of hundreds of diverse products. It’s about getting them into accessible formats so people can use them.”

Further information
Status of Social Care – A Review 2007

Contact the author
Anabel Unity Sale

This article appeared in the 23 August issue under the headline “Taking a tough job to the next stage”

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