Social Skirmishes: Rosie Warlock bemoans performance indicators

A colleague calls me over, “Have you seen this?”. He shows me a list of indicators for local area agreements (don’t ask why he was reading it).

One stands out: Indicator 14 – Avoidable contact: The proportion of customer contact that is of low or no value to the customer.

Do the bods in Whitehall believe social workers spend our days wasting clients’ time? We have to fill out so many forms that we rarely have the opportunity. My colleague tells me that a lot of PCTs have signed up to it but few councils, which sort of gives me a glow of mild satisfaction as we might be doing something right.

A couple of days later, he calls me over again: “I have been researching this a bit more.” (look, I said don’t ask.)

A halo of smugness descends upon my head: “So our health buddies are bigger wasters of our clients’ time than we are,” I opine.

“Not quite. The IDeA (you sort of guessed that they had something to do with it) have re-formulated the indicator. It now reads: NI 14:Avoidable contact : The proportion of contacts within key service areas that are a poor use of customer and officer time.

I ask the meaning of this. “Note how wasting customer’s time, ie the vulnerable service user in need of our help, has been put on a par with officer – not frontline staff like you or me, but a council officer, ie manager.” He explains that an indicator originally designed to help clients has been transformed into a weapon for jobsworths to refuse meetings on the ground of poor use of time.

“And guess what”, he adds with glee, “councils and PCTs are signing up to it in droves.”

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