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1. The context

The return of assessments to adult social care will present reputational challenges and opportunities.

If you are a council in England providing adult social care you will be assessed by the Care Quality Commission by 2025 under a new approach to assessment. Strategic communications has a major role to play in managing this process and achieving positive outcomes.

For the first time in 15 years, adult social care in all English councils is being assessed by the Care Quality Commission in a series of on-site visits before the end of 2025.

The CQC wants the process to have different feel from, say, that of Ofsted’s and describes it as “assessment” rather than “inspection”. However, although the process will be different it should still be treated as an inspection.

Like an Ofsted inspection the CQC assessment will generate a single rating.

Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate

As stated earlier, the methodology may be different but is equally rigorous and the preparation, communication, and reputational considerations are similar.

The resulting assessment report will provide a short summary of the key features of your council and will focus on people’s experiences of care. It will include their findings against four themes (how local authorities work with people, provide support, ensure safety, and leadership), and for each of nine quality statements.

This report, which can be challenged for inaccuracies, has to be published and acted on. If it identifies major weaknesses in practice and care, this can trigger some form of intervention, based on the DHSC framework.

There is a significant strategic role here for a head of communications or equivalent to be working with the chief executive, lead member(s) and the director of adult social services (DASS) on planning for and managing the process before, during and after the assessment.

A similar CQC assurance process for your integrated care systems is being piloted currently and reviews of them all have been proposed.