Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Learning disability support provider quality initiative launches

Driving Up Quality CodeA new initiative that aims to drive up the standards of support that organisations provide to people with learning disabilities has been launched.

The Driving Up Quality Code asks support providers to ensure they aim beyond minimum standards to improve the lives of people in their care.

It has been developed by the Driving Up Quality Alliance, a provider-led steering group, in response to the abuse of people with learning disabilities at Winterbourne View private hospital in 2011, to ensure this can never happen again. The Alliance has had support from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Department of Health, Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS), Challenging Behaviour Foundation and NHS England.

The Driving up Quality Code sets out 5 key areas that indicate the practices of a good organisation:

1. Support is focused on the person
2. The person is supported to have an ordinary and meaningful life
3. Care and Support focuses on people being happy and having a good quality of life
4. A good culture is important to the organisation
5. Managers and board members lead and run the organisation well.

Providers who sign up to the voluntary code will be making a public commitment to the principles of it. Providers from various sectors including housing, support, residential care and healthcare will be asked to self-assess against the code annually, and there will be a mechanism for anyone to challenge a provider.

Health and social care commissioners will also be encouraged to sign up to the code to say that they will use it in their commissioning processes and work with providers who have adopted the code. The alliance will make public the commissioners that do and don’t sign up to the code. Information about who has signed up and how organisations are working towards meeting the Code is publicly available on www.drivingupquality.org.uk

Government endorsement

Care Services Minister Norman Lamb, has endorsed the code: “I am very pleased that providers are taking responsibility for ensuring there is a culture of continuous improvement and transparency… and we would like to see it become the industry standard across the learning disability sector.

“I particularly want to endorse this code because it addresses some of the fundamental issues that were identified at Winterbourne View. This includes a lack of appropriate training for staff and inadequate concern for the views of people with learning disabilities and their families. This code is an integral part of the system-wide improvement plan following Winterbourne View. I hope that this will lead to real action that will help to transform people’s lives.”

Alan Rosenbach of the CQC says the organisation is moving away from a compliance-based model of regulation and working with the Driving Up Quality Alliance to identify how it can assess whether providers are signed up to the code and are demonstrably implementing it.

“We want to drive up quality in services for people with learning disabilities that goes beyond minimum standards, and to provide a clear message to the sector and the wider population about what is and what is not acceptable practice,” he said. “To get to the heart of people’s experience of care and support we are going to ask a new set of five questions of every service:  Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs? Is it well-led? We hope these questions will promote a culture of openness and honesty in organisations.”

Supporting transparency

Paul Hayes, a board director of the Housing and Support Alliance (H and SA), co-chair of the Driving up Quality Alliance steering group, co-chair of the English Community Care Association Learning Disability Group and managing director of Swanton Care and Community, said:  “The code’s greatest strength is that it is provider-led. It’s all about providers of support for people with learning disabilities coming together, regardless of whether they are private or third sector and collectively saying we are committed to being open and honest about where we are as a provider, truly involving people we support and publicly and transparently sharing our journey’s to delivering quality support and services.”

H and SA chief executive officer, Alicia Wood, said: “The Driving up Quality Code commits providers to addressing some of the fundamental cultural issues in their organisations and being honest and transparent about where they are at in relation to the Code. The Code will be able to help fundamentally good organisations to get better and start to address some of the problems that stop them from supporting people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour well.”

ADASS president, Andrea Pope-Smith, invited commissioners to encourage sign up to the code and promote it as best practice. “It is good to see that providers are taking responsibility for ensuring there is a culture of reflection, openness and transparency within organisations and the wider sector,” she said. “We particularly want to support this code as is part of the improvement plan following Winterbourne View and addresses some of the issues that were identified.” 

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