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5: Responding to the assessment report

The rating your council is given will receive a lot of attention. Developing and delivering your response is an important part of the process.

This is a public process and the assessors’ findings are published in detail along with the one-word rating. Publication of the report is the point of maximum communications risk or opportunity for the council and demands careful planning and coordination.

The report

The report will provide a short summary of the key features of your council and will focus on people’s experiences of care. Examples of reports published so far can be found on the CQC website

It will include detailed findings against the four main themes of working with people, providing support, ensuring safety within the system, and leadership.

You will see a draft of the report in advance, something like two weeks or so before publication. You will have chance to fact check but will not be able make any changes to the substance of the report or the overall rating.

Once the rating and report is agreed, it will be published on the CQC website, and a media release issued. CQC will communicate with the communications team in advance of publication (around eight weeks after the site visit).

Developing your messaging

You will be given quite a time to prepare for the assessment and you will be part of preparing the self assessment, so you will have had chance to sketch out your response and messaging well before you see the draft report.

Good communications practice applies to how you approach responding to the results of the assessment:

  • Have draft statements ready for each scenario. This is not wasted time because the core elements will be the same whatever the rating
  • Be considered in the tone and content of your response.  This assessment is intended to be an open and honest look at the council’s performance. This is not the time to be defensive if you require improvement or are rated inadequate, or to be overtly celebratory if you’re good or outstanding
  • If you are a self-aware council and likely to receive a low rating, you will have improvement plans in place already, so accept the rating and show what you are doing to put things right.
  • A high rating gives you an opportunity to praise the work of frontline teams and show how you will work to ensure that your performance will be sustained over time.
  • The one-word rating does not offer nuance in terms of performance.  A council with a low rating will have areas of success to build on and these should be communicated.  A highly-rated council should have the confidence to say there are still areas to look at and improve.

Delivering your response

  • Build a day-by-day delivery plan for the response with clear actions and named people responsible for ensuring delivery.  Share and agree who manages this plan, and how.
  • Develop tailored briefings for each of your key audiences, although all will have the golden thread of your core messaging running through them.
  • Think how you will engage with all your audiences. Face-to-face is always welcome but may not be necessary or practical in all cases. And Teams and Zoom have given us new ways to “talk” with a large number of people on remote sites.
  • Agree a hierarchy of contacts and decide who gets a face-to-face meeting, an invite to a video call, a ‘phone call, or email. This will also help you with timings: staff and then members should hear from you first; partners should have been briefed as you start putting content on your website, talking to the media and using social media.
  • Pull together small team of good political and officer communicators you can use for a range of videos, interviews and briefings, internal and external.
  • The one-word rating system means that you should bring the media in on publication day for a full briefing so you can properly explain the background and context and have a chance to tell the council’s full story. Those media reps. who can’t or won’t come, can have the media pack and a video clip for their websites
  • Think carefully about your social media content. A simple statement and link to a press release won’t wash.  And it is social media so how will you handle questions and criticisms online?

Developing your adult social care narrative

The CQC assessment is not an end in itself.

Irrespective of the assessment and rating, it’s an opportunity to put improvement at the heart of what you do and to build a leadership narrative for adult social care in your council.

You will have done some of the work on this already as part of the messaging for the assessment process, but now it should be built into your improvement plan for the service.

As part of that plan, the narrative:

  • articulates where the adult social care service has come from and where it wants to be
  • translates your service aims and planned-for outcomes into compelling and emotional language that engages your stakeholders’ hearts, as well as minds
  • provides direction for what you want to achieve and how  the organisation and staff behave 
  • focuses the efforts of staff around a shared understanding of where the organisation is going and how they can contribute

The very process of developing a narrative – and listening to people’s individual stories – can build teams, help establish productive relationships with partners and be a vehicle for listening to and involving the public in the council’s work.

For communications professionals, it puts you at the heart of your organisation and provides an opportunity for you to show leadership in areas such as policy development and decision-making.

The council should have a corporate narrative  already that will help set the direction and tone for the adult social care improvement sub narrative. If not, there is a bigger job to do.

For more details on how to start developing your narrative and how to embed it in the working of the service, go to our Building a narrative for your council toolkit.