Friends, humanity and co-production

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

Friends, humanity and co-production. My three key themes from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) spring seminar. Perhaps surprising given that the focus was on austerity and the social care response. But amongst the facts and figures of rising demand, decreasing resources and difficult decisions, my interest was sparked by the focus on people.


I have been privileged to hear Ann Johnson, an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society speak before but when I realised that she was kicking off the workshop on dementia, I knew it was my top priority to give her support.

Ann was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 52 and is now over 60, living in a care home. Although she calls her care workers her friends, she thinks there ought to be more options for residential care for younger people. Ann says that what keeps her going are her friends, her faith and doing talks. I have rarely met Ann without her friend Christine by her side — Christine is clearly a rock of support for Ann and when Ann urges us not to forget our friends, you can see why.

The message about not forgetting your friends was reinforced for me at the weekend with a couple of birthday parties, one for the 18 year old daughter of the friend I met on my very first day at university — a long time ago! We both have busy professional and personal lives, but it is lovely to keep in touch and be a part of family celebrations. That doesn’t happen by chance — though I have to say my friends are remarkably tolerant of my obsession with work.


David Jack was the main speaker at the session on transforming care for people with learning disabilities. His moving description of his son, James’s life — the dislocation of a distant school placement, the trauma of transition to adult services, subsequently passed from pillar to post, poor care and the constant battle to get the right support — was a sharp reminder that the horror of Winterbourne View is only one of the reasons why we have to make the promised transformation real.

I was struck by the lack of humanity shown by individuals and the system throughout David’s story — where was the compassion, care, interest in James himself and his family? Everyone in the room was emotionally affected by what David had to say — but many of us have been a part of the system that has allowed these things to happen. We need to make sure that we focus on the human impact of our decisions and the way care is organised. It is painful for people like David and his wife Jill to share their stories which makes it even more important that we act upon them.


Which brings me to co-production. Directors of Adult Social Services and their teams have a tough job to do and difficult decisions to make. But throughout the spring seminar there was recognition that they cannot do it alone — in fact, they shouldn’t do it alone. Working with people using services, their families and carers as well as with providers and other partners is the best way to make sense of complex and competing priorities.

As you know, I am a strong advocate of co-production, and have tried hard to involve those with an interest in what CQC does in the development of our new approach. That has included ADASS and I would like to pay tribute to the leadership David Pearson has provided in his presidential year. He has been great to work with.

I was very heartened by the inaugural speech of the new ADASS President Ray James. Ray has been a key member of the working group that helped us to develop the market oversight scheme, so I know our good working relationship with ADASS will be sustained — very important to ensure that Directors have confidence in the judgments we make. In his speech Ray emphasised the importance of coproduction:

“Meaningful co-production is hands down the best way to improve outcomes and satisfaction levels. Our role as leaders is not to think that we know what’s best, but to create the conditions where those who are most likely to know best, come together, listen to each other and co-produce lasting solutions”

Great stuff Ray and good luck for the year ahead.

The last word

You’d think Ray’s quote would be a fitting end to this blog, but that accolade goes to Tina Coldham, Chair of the Co-Production Group at the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Bringing her refreshingly down-to-earth perspective to the session on delivering quality in austerity, she reflected on the various schemes we have (integration pioneers, vanguards and the like) and commented:

“Jeez, we’re trying to get people up in the morning, not cross the North West passage”

Originally published at

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