What does a fair inspection look like?

They even got the name of the school wrong. They had us down as unitary council instead of a county council. They didn’t seem to know we had become a Foundation Trust. If they couldn’t get the basic facts right what confidence could you have in their assessment of the school/Hospital/service?

 Of course they said they would correct any factual errors in the draft report but no other changes despite protests that they had misinterpreted what they had seen or that they had taken at face value what they had been told. Clearly some staff were demoralised surly that was to be expected what with budget cuts and redundancies. There were lots of changes taking place at the time of the inspection and most were unpopular but driven by government policy. No matter how many open meetings and newsletters you produce there will always be some people who claim that they don’t know what’s going on. You really can claim this is evidence of a lack of leadership.

Yes some performance figures were disappointing despite the effort staff have put in but it takes time and just remember where we were 18 months age. It all very well comparing us to the best performing organisations but you need to appreciate the levels of deprivation we are dealing with, the ethnic diversity of the local population and the politics. A couple of the local MP’s are just using the local media to further their own political careers, they take isolated incidents and claim they are evidence of a failing service. As we explained the individual circumstances were more complex than they made out and of course we could not answer their public criticism with reference to individual cases because we have to respect confidentiality. 

I don’t agree that this is evidence of a breakdown of the relationship with local politicians or poor relations with the local media on the contrary many local politicians have been very supportive and both the local paper and radio have recently ran very positive stories about our innovative work with young people and those with learning disabilities.

Any school, hospital or social service department could make these comments following an inspection. Many do, I know mine did. So how do the public, the politicians and the media know if the report is fair and the inspectors know what they are talking about?

All I can tell you is that with the recent reorganisation and merger of inspection services coupled with budget cuts there has been a significant loss of expertise. Many experienced inspectors with years of operational back ground often at a senior level have taken voluntary redundancy or early retirement. Meanwhile the government has increased the pressure to complete more inspections in shorter time periods and through their new appointments sent out a message to get tough.  

Blair McPherson former Director of community services and author of Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by www.russelhouse.co.uk

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