Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

I have just returned from two week’s annual leave in France which included a tough 7 days hiking in the Auvergne. Not a holiday‎ for the faint-hearted with sore limbs, tired body and aching feet at the end of every day. But, boy was it worth it!

The dramatic, volcanic-shaped landscapes; exhilarating ridge walks; impressive views as far as the eye could see. But it wasn’t just the big picture that captivated — delicate alpine flowers, dancing butterflies, unknown birds and ancient ruins all provided a welcome opportunity to pause awhile and enjoy.

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Like my holiday, the big picture of social care is important but we cannot forget the small details that matter so much to each individual.

Social care big picture

The social care big picture is often dominated by worries about resources — in particular, the squeeze on local authority budgets failing to ‎keep pace with rising demands and people’s complex needs — and the impact this could have on the sustainability of services. Then there are the concerns about staffing — recruiting and retaining the great staff we need to deliver these crucial services. And last, but not least, the challenge to work collaboratively with health, housing and each other within a system that often confuses rather than helps.

Important details

We could be daunted and defeated by these big picture challenges or concentrate all our effort on sorting them out. Given how important social care is, we cannot allow ourselves to give up on it because it’s difficult. And while tackling those big problems is important and certainly demand our time and effort — for example, to seek extra resources and make sure they are used properly — they cannot be our only focus of activity. The details that matter and can help to improve each individual’s experience are the bedrock of good quality services and also deserve our attention and energy.


‎The last Care Minister, Alistair Burt recognised this and was encouraging the social care sector to work together with people using services, their families and carers to develop a coherent quality strategy that addressed big picture issues but also focused on practical action to demonstrate progress on specific problems.

Although the social care sector brief has now passed to David Mowat, ‎we are determined not to lose momentum and today, CQC is joining a host of other partners to consider how to take this forward. Even though it’s the height of summer (well, according to the calendar), there has been a tremendous response and a range of perspectives and views will certainly enrich the discussions. We are setting ourselves three objectives:

  • What the key principles for a quality strategy should be
  • What immediate, practical improvements we could make as providers, staff, commissioners and funders, regulators and other national bodies working with people using services, their families and carers
  • What the next steps would be to broaden the involvement, ownership and enthusiasm for a quality strategy for adult social care

As you can see, the big picture is there but we will also try and identify what practical difference we can make to specific issues. One firmly in our sights is how can the way we all handle complaints in social care be made easier and more productive for the people raising concerns?

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I am looking forward to an interesting day and I am very grateful to colleagues at CQC, Skills for Care, the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the Department of Health for all the work they’ve done while I have been away to organise the day. Special thanks go to Arti Luther, Debbie Ivanova, Sharon Allen, Tony Hunter and Paul Richardson and also to everyone giving time up in August to attend.

Strong foundation

This won’t be the end of the conversation‎ — if it was easy we would have cracked it by now. But I hope that today will provide a strong foundation for future work to ensure all of us in adult social care take our responsibility for quality seriously.

And I know, the big picture will set an important context but we won’t forget the important details either.

Originally published at

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