Spotlight on … Quality Assurance
In the latest in our Spotlight series, we talk to Lindsay Macfadyen, our Quality Assurance Manager to find out about quality assurance…
What is Quality Assurance?
Quality assurance is a way of checking how well we’re doing. Sometimes it involves things that can be measured or counted (quantitative). For example, how long it takes us to do something, or it can be a description of what we see or what is experienced, and the impact of that (qualitative). It almost always involves comparing what is counted or observed to defined standards or benchmarks.
What does it mean for SCRA? Why do we do it?
In SCRA our ambition is that quality is central to everything we do. When strategies and plans are developed, we ask managers to not only describe what they will do, but also how they will measure how well they do it. We have mainly used quality assurance to review how we carry out our statutory functions, such as decision making, but it’s just as relevant to everything we do. For example, how we meet our customer care commitments; whether our Hearing rooms are as good as they can be; how staff have been supported and provided with the necessary tools to work from home – all the things we need to do to provide a high quality service to children and their families. We also use it to provide assurance to our Board about our practice and risk management.
What does it involve?
The most visible quality assurance activity in SCRA is the national case sampling programme. This usually consists of four exercises every year, where core aspects of Reporter activity are reviewed and assessed by managers and senior practitioners in the Localities. The findings of each exercise are analysed, and the conclusions used as the basis of an action plan with specific actions in respect of areas where improvements are needed. SCRA’s Practice & Quality Network (PQN) is the group which develops the case sampling programme, and the action plan that comes out of each exercise.
What are some of the topics of these case sampling exercises?
Different topics are selected each year, the most recent one being about practice around the cases of children jointly reported to the Procurator Fiscal (PF) and the Reporter, assessing the extent to which the agreement we have with the PF for these cases is being followed. The next exercise, running in May and June of this year will be on the statement of grounds that Reporters draft for cases involving domestic abuse, looking at how well the messages from the domestic abuse training that all Reporters did in 2017 are being applied, as well as the Practice Direction on drafting grounds. There will also be some exercises in this programme and future ones where Reporters are observed in Hearings and in court, as we want to embed that as a positive way of both reviewing practice, and ensuring that the necessary support is provided to allow them to carry out their role in these settings
What other Quality assurance activity is there apart from the case sampling programme?
Data quality is another important part of our quality assurance activity, and one which intersects and overlaps with our data strategy, and the work SCRA is doing as part of Keeping The Promise. Data quality is important both for the accuracy of the child’s record and for the flow of information through the processes of referral, decision making, Hearings and court. The consequences of poor data quality go from creating additional remedial work for staff, to causing risk to the child, for example from a breach of information. We have a dedicated Data Quality Assurance Officer, who regularly reviews data quality across many fields, and we also have a Data Quality group which looks at what is needed to bring about improvements
As well national case sampling, Localities sometimes carry out local smaller scale exercises on topics they have identified as requiring some scrutiny. For example, one of the Localities is currently looking at how they identify participation individuals, and others want to carry out follow up exercises on jointly reported cases. Local exercises like these are something we are keen to promote and develop.
And this year, as we have only two national case sampling exercises planned, there is an opportunity to do some work aligned to The Promise programme. An exercise on voluntary measures decisions is happening just now, these decisions are where the Reporter decides not to arrange a Children’s Hearing for the referred child, but asks the local authority to provide support on a voluntary basis. This is a topic being considered as part of the reform programme of The Promise and the exercise is looking as much at referral practices by our partners as at Reporter decision making.
What are the benefits of Quality Assurance? Will it lead to improvements for children and families?
Quality Assurance helps us push ourselves to continuously improve the way we deliver our service to the children and families that experience it. For example, the actions that flow from each case sampling exercise are all specifically aimed at improving Reporter practice through training, supervision and improvements in our case management system, which will then allow us to meet our corporate and statutory aims and provide a high quality service to children and families. As mentioned earlier, the Practice & Quality Network has a crucial role in identifying necessary actions, and carrying out the improvements required across Localities.
Do you publish or report on Quality Assurance?
Yes, we report on Quality Assurance in our Annual Report and Annual Accounts which you can view on our website.