Rainbows and clouds

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission.

Last week 86 year-old Maya Angelou died. She was a remarkable woman and lived life to the full as you can see from her obituary in The Guardian. Her writing, poetry and performances leave a lasting legacy of powerful wisdom rooted in a deep humanity. One example is the poem Still I Rise which she recites here. The Guardian also shared with us 15 of her best quotes.

One I really liked was “Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud”. I take that to mean that we should try and offer hope, perhaps joy, when others are not feeling that way. It feels appropriate for me in this job sometimes. Sadly I hear some awful tales of poor care, people failed by services, families burdened with guilt and staff at the end of their tether. I always have to remember there is also some wonderful care, people in difficult circumstances being supported by dedicated and kind staff to live meaningful and happy lives. Sometimes I have to be the rainbow in my own cloud!

While sharing good news stories is one way to offer hope for people worried about the state of adult social care, as a Chief Inspector at the Care Quality Commission, I know there is much more that I and my team can do. We need to work with others throughout social care to be clear about the standards we expect to see, monitor and inspect services, be clear and transparent about our judgements, encourage services to improve and take action to protect people in vulnerable circumstances when that is necessary.

This was brought home to me again when last week I was interviewed alongside Mandy Mugford on Good Morning Britain. Mandy was so worried about her mother that she used a secret camera to film staff in the care home. The distressing footage revealed poor care and led Mandy to take her mother out of the home. The care home also took action and the staff involved are no longer employed there.

The Local Government Ombudsman had issued a report into adult social care complaints and while many were about council assessment, care planning and funding decisions a significant proportion related to local authority and private services. Against this backdrop Mandy told her story and I was asked about the regulator’s role. It was tough for Mandy to do and she is understandably critical of a system that she feels has let her and her family down. She listened as I explained how we are changing our approach to regulation and inspection and the importance we place on hearing and responding to what families tell us about their loved ones.

At the end Mandy was asked what she made of the changes — she said that she was pleased progress was being made but was yet to be convinced. That’s fair enough — we are making progress but we need to deliver real action and change to convince people. But it is stories like Mandy’s that make it clear to me how important it is that we do. And that we is not just the CQC — it’s staff, managers, owners, commissioners, funders, national agencies and government all working together.

With James Titcombe, I also met this week Adeline Dalley, a care worker who has raised concerns about poor care in the past. We discussed good care, how to spot poor care and her experiences (“terrible”) of being a whistleblower. It’s great that she is now working where she feels more confident about the standard of care and has been able to share her advice on what to look out for when choosing a care home in her book “Behind those care home doors”.

Which brings me to another great Maya Angelou quote:

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.”

Mandy, Adeline and others have shown courage in raising concerns to help find a better way to care for people. Those of us who can make a difference need the courage to do the right thing, even (perhaps especially) when that is uncomfortable so we do indeed:

“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.”


Originally published at www.cqc.org.uk.