Equality and human rights are too often seen as a challenge – something that’s a bit scary and hard to get right. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Promoting equality and human rights gets to the heart of good health and social care: ensuring care is centred around people as individuals and supporting them to make decisions about how they want to live their lives. Paying attention to equality and human rights improves care for people using services because it gives people the outcomes that they want.
Although progress is being made, too much inequality still exists and people with some protected characteristics, for example religion, belief or sexual orientation, are less likely to receive good quality health and social care. At CQC, we want to use our position to change this. We set ambitious equality objectives every two years to focus on where we think we can make an impact on quality of care for people who use services.
One of our current objectives is about person-centred care and equality. We know that good person-centred care is crucial to improving care quality, and it plays just as big a role in improving the poorer health and care outcomes of particular groups of people. Through our inspection and monitoring, we can assess how well providers ensure person-centred care for people with protected characteristics, as well as promoting and encouraging best practice. Last year, we focused on care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people who use adult social care services, and this year we’ve begun to look at how people’s faith, beliefs and religion are supported too.
So, what does this mean in practice? We have developed tools for inspectors to help them better assess how providers support LGBT+ people, and we’re talking about this more in our inspection reports so that the public has this information when choosing care for themselves or a loved one. This is a great start and we want to improve how we do this so that people and providers can clearly see how equality and human rights are being promoted and supported by services. The more we talk about it, the more best practice we can share for others to learn from.
We’re now taking a similar approach to looking at people’s faith, beliefs and religion. This is a broad area and covers everything from how people are supported to practice their religion, to how pastoral care for people in care settings reflects their faith and beliefs. We are working with a range of expert organisations and people to ensure their knowledge shapes the tools we develop to help inspectors make confident, informed assessments.
Providers should be seeing the impact of this work later this year, with more specific questions related to person-centred care for people’s faith, beliefs and religion in our inspections. This means staff and services may be asked how they meet people’s needs and take an equality and human rights approach relating to this.
People using social care services should be able to be themselves, in exactly the same way that everyone should. This isn’t just about stopping unacceptable discrimination; this is about providers and staff who support people being confident with difference.
CQC can support the sector to grow in confidence in how it supports difference and equality by sharing examples of outstanding practice. As well as highlighting examples in our inspection reports, we will continue to use our independent voice to talk honestly about what we’re seeing across the country. If you’re looking for inspiration, you can read the case studies in our Equally Outstanding resource. It features providers who have shown that not only does focusing on equality and human rights result in the best outcomes for people, it can actually minimise the impact of challenges in times of financial constraint. There really is no reason not to put equality and human rights at the centre of providing care and support.
We would love to hear about the work you’re doing to promote equality in your services. Share them with us by tagging @CareQualityComm on Twitter.
Debbie Ivanova is Deputy Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission. Sign in to share your thoughts on Debbie’s column and suggest topics for future CQC columns below. Not a member? Sign up today.