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3: Getting ready for the assessment

The communications team needs to be involved from the beginning and throughout the process.

Every adult social care authority knows it will be assessed at some point before 2025  and councils are currently being given up to six months to prep after the initial notification for the onsite assessment. Even if you have had no advance warning yet, you must use the time you have now to think through the issues and risks and plan properly.

The assessment regime is still bedding in so could change in its detail even close to the first day of your assessment, but we know enough from the pilots and the first wave of assessments about the basic shape, content and timings of the process.

Learn about this process and understand where communications fits and can make a real difference to a successful outcome.

Even if you or colleagues know adult social care well, refresh your knowledge of how the service operates and what is coming up (particularly any emerging and significant reputational risks).

Get in early on the conversations between your chief executive, director of adult social services (DASS) and lead member; if they are meeting regularly you need to be at that table.

They will want to know you have a strategy to manage the council’s reputation, whatever the outcome, and you will want to challenge thinking on the wider role of communications, and the reality of how messages will land.

There will also be a project team managing the assessment programme and you need to be on it or represented.

As soon as the council is notified of its assessment, you will be expected by your organisation to have thought through all the communications impacts and risks for the process and have ready an outline at least of a communications delivery plan.

Many councils will have used Partners in Care and Health’s Self-Assessment documents. This is important evidence for the asses

For the council it is an opportunity to tell its story so you should be alongside the DASS and their team as they develop the self-assessment, to both understand the issues, develop the narrative and support the writing.

Planning your communications

The CQC assessment process may be new and specific but good practice remains the same in terms of planning for and managing effective communications. But you should be sensitive to the needs of the particular social care audiences, internal and external, who are significantly involved and affected.


Be clear as always about what you want to achieve with your communications and how you will measure effectiveness.

There are practical objectives around informing adult social care staff, key partners and the local media about why the assessment is happening and why it is important.

But you should also see the assessment as an opportunity to improve the understanding and involvement of internal and external stakeholders in improving performance and service quality.

The immediate CQC rating will loom large in people’s minds but there is a strategic outcome communications can support in building and maintaining a sustainable and safe service for the future.

The core script

Don’t be tempted to give out “lines to take” or key messages, this is supposed to be an open, honest and authentic process. But do prepare some core information that can be at the heart of all employee and stakeholder briefings eg:

  • What is happening, and when?
  • What are we doing in preparation?
  • How have we improved?
  • What are we doing to further improve?
  • How does it affect me/my team?
  • Where can I find out more information?
  • Who can I talk with if I have concerns?
  • How has your work impacted on the people you serve?