Adass’s Owen attacks CQC over treatment of eight councils

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ president has lambasted the Care Quality Commission over its treatment of the eight councils rated ‘adequate’ in this year’s annual performance assessment.

Jenny Owen said most of the eight did not know that they were going to be categorised as “priority for improvement” following yesterday’s assessment until Owen informed them earlier this week.

The impact was compounded after some national newspapers used yesterday’s news to say the eight – Bromley, Cornwall, Peterborough, Poole, Solihull, South Tyneside and Southwark – had been “named and shamed” by the CQC.

Priority for improvement councils receive extra scrutiny from the regulator, through closer engagement with area managers, and from Department of Health regional officials.

However, Owen said some of them had not heard from the CQC for months, which “doesn’t imply an urgent need to improve, does it?”.

She claimed local and regional CQC inspectors had been pleased with progress made by the councils, which meant the negative headlines caught them by surprise.

Owen said the press reports had detracted from the fact that this was “the best overall performance since ratings records began”, with 95% of councils now rated good or excellent, up from 87% last year.

She also raised questions over the link between an adequate rating and being priority for improvement, adding: “I don’t know if ‘adequate’ is the new poor because adequate used to mean that things were okay.”

A CQC spokesperson said: “We have an excellent dialogue with ADASS and we always listen with great care to what the organisation says. They are absolutely right to point out that the gradings show an overall improvement and that the vast majority of councils have done well, as we ourselves have emphasised very strongly.

“It is also good that ADASS recognises that they are important areas needing improvement on behalf of service users. We look forward to working with them on these issues.”

Owen’s criticisms follow an attack on the CQC by Southwark Council, after it was downgraded from ‘excellent’ to ‘adequate’, following an inspection in April and May. Annie Shepperd, chief executive of the south London authority, accused the CQC of making a ‘flawed’ and ‘inaccurate’ assessment of the council, though the regulator stood by its judgement.

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