Following the panel session at the 2019 European Social Services Conference on the role of inspection agencies, we look back on the concept of quality in social services and how it can be achieved.

Quality was the focus of our conference in Milan (5-7 June). Discussions during the conference started with developing an understanding of the concept of quality, how it is established in social services and how it supports quality of life for people receiving care and support. One other important aspect is looking beyond the concept of quality, to how it can be implemented and upheld in practice.

Understanding Quality

When we look at quality, there are different approaches that can be taken. Peter Macleod, Chief Executive of Scotland’s Care Inspectorate, explained their new care standards developed from human rights and based on five principles:

  1. Dignity and respect
  2. Compassion
  3. Inclusion
  4. Responsive care and support
  5. Wellbeing

Taking a human rights approach to care standards was echoed by Phelim Quinn, Chief Executive of HIQA in Ireland, who explained how they carry out inspections with human rights principles as a benchmark. 

A simpler and more personal quality test was put forward on the final day of the conference, the ‘mum test’. This asks ‘would these standards be good enough for my mum?’. 

Another approach was put forward by Eva Liz Moen, advisor at ULOBA Independent Living. She stated that for people with disabilities like her quality of life is about leading a normal life, having a job, paying taxes and participating in the community. 

Innovative projects promoting quality of life

Exploring new care concepts can also provide radical solutions to improve people’s quality of life. The De Hogeweyk project presented by Eloy van Hal is an innovative concept for caring for older people with dementia. They are cared for in a village that feels like a normal neighbourhood with streets, squares, supermarkets, a restaurant, and theatre. This allows them to live a normal lifestyle and to have more control in their own lives. 

Eloy highlighted that small decisions may seem unimportant to us, but may be hugely important to people using services. For example, choosing when and where you would like to have your lunch.

Upholding Quality

When it comes to enforcing quality standards, the role of inspection agencies is key. At the Conference, leaders from inspection agencies in Europe discussed how they contribute to quality, highlighting key items for success:

  • Independent inspectors 
  • Clear objectives and principles 
  • Working on an evidence-based approach 
  • Establishing a relationship of trust and consultation between inspectors, providers and people using services

The Conference was an opportunity to discuss these different perspectives on how quality can be understood, and how it can be achieved. This includes basing quality principles on human rights, using simple and personal benchmarks like the ‘mum test’, and ensuring people can live normal lives in the community. Radical projects like ‘De Hogewyk’ sparked ideas on how quality of life can be implemented, and we heard from inspection agencies on how they collaborate with services and people using services to uphold quality.