Volunteers make all the difference

Rami Okasha, Executive Director of Strategy and Improvement, Care Inspectorate

Involving people in decisions about their care is at the heart of high-quality social care. It’s a core principle that underpins Scotland’s new Health and Social Care Standards, published just last week. 

At the Care Inspectorate, we take the same approach to scrutiny. We try to involve volunteers and people with care experience across all our work. Supported by a dedicated involvement and equalities team, our volunteers play a central role in helping us to assess quality and understand how well care is being delivered.

Volunteers 1

Nearly 100 people volunteer with the Care Inspectorate as inspection volunteers and young inspectors. When we carry out an inspection, one of them goes with the inspector to where the care is being delivered, talks to people and hears their views. Often, they speak with carers too.

Each volunteer brings their own personal experience of care and so can share a really unique perspective of what it is like to experience care. They are experts by experience. This can lead to really supportive and empowering conversations with people experiencing care, to understand what life is like for them, good and bad. Sometimes, people are more willing to speak about concerns to an inspection volunteer than the inspector themselves, so it is a powerful way to ensure those views are heard too. Last year, our inspection volunteers spoke with over 5,500 people who experience care.

Young inspectors are specially trained people aged 18 – 24 years, who themselves have experience of the care system. They work with our large-scale joint inspections of services for young people provided in each local area across Scotland. They join the team of inspectors to speak to young people, discuss their observations and findings with senior officers, and ensure a really personal understanding of care is at the heart of assessing quality.

Not all our volunteers want to take part in inspections. Some advise us on our work in other ways. Our Involving People Group is made up of people experiencing care, including carers. The national group meets quarterly at venues across Scotland. It is an open, friendly and welcoming group and the members have a role in shaping Care Inspectorate policy and strategy. Members are also involved in recruitment of new staff – I was interviewed by one of our involved people when applying for my job. They also play an important role in responding to policy and consultations from other organisations. For example, they were instrumental in advising on the new care standards, stressing how important it is that the standards enable positive risk which supports people to live their lives in the way they want.

For the Care Inspectorate, volunteering is something that needs to be open to all, regardless of background and ability. Our involvement co-ordinators support people to participate and volunteer on their own terms. In the last few months, with the support of our dementia consultant and dementia campaigners, we have run a pilot to involve people with a diagnosis of dementia as inspection volunteers.

This ground-breaking work involved people with a diagnosis of dementia speaking directly to others experiencing care. The inspection volunteers fed back and used their personal observations to help make improvements. For example, in one care home the inspection volunteer noted how support for people during mealtimes led to difficulties for some people living with dementia. The manager used this information to improve the mealtime experience. In another care home, inspection volunteers pointed out that using pictorial signage as well as wording to indicate different areas or rooms would be helpful for them. In a third care home, volunteers pointed out that the lighting levels were too low for them in some areas. We are delighted that many of the inspection volunteers involved in the pilot have decided to remain with us and continue their work.

This commitment to involving people in care scrutiny was recognised when the Care Inspectorate worked together to be awarded with the Investing in Volunteers accreditation last year. Investing in Volunteers is not easy to get: it is the quality standard for good practice in supporting volunteers and we are extremely proud to have achieved it.

As an organisation, we truly recognise the commitment and dedication of volunteers and celebrate the difference they make to our work and improving care in Scotland. We’d love if you want to be involved too.

Want to find out more? You can read more about volunteering with us on our Get Involved page at http://www.careinspectorate.com/index.php/get-involved-with-the-care-inspectorate