Quality and innovation in social care

The third sector is a significant provider of social care services across Scotland, delivering around a third of all services. Here at Penumbra, we support 1800 adults and young people each week through our non-medical approach to mental health recovery through a range of services including crisis and suicide prevention support, 121 keyworking and groupwork, and supported living and accommodation. As pioneers of the peer support approach, 20% of our workforce are employed in peer roles. Critical to what we do is ensuring quality, improvement and innovation across all of our services, so I wanted to catch up with Penumbra Quality Manager and self-confessed quality geek, Julie Rutherford, to find out more about why the focus on quality and improvement across our Penumbra services is so important. Here’s what she said. 

Penumbra’s mission is to provide, support and influence services and activities that improve the mental health and wellbeing of people’

The strategic aim of Improvement is to ensure quality and continuous improvement in all business processes to achieve our mission. My role is central to this strategic aim.  It’s important that Penumbra is adaptable and innovative to stay ahead of the game, anticipate challenges, and strive for the best results. Quality Assurance Frameworks (QAFs) allow us to share practice across the organisation and provide support to teams with any challenges they may face.

As an active member of Quality Scotland and a qualified EFQM Assessor, I’m able to network with a wide variety of differing organisations across the private, public and third sector.  This enables Penumbra to have insight into sector leading organisations and to share practice and innovations. 

All of this is important for the outcomes of the people who access our services. Ultimately Penumbra exists to support people with their mental health and overall wellbeing. We’ve been at the forefront of recovery-focused practices within Scotland and further afield.

We are an innovative organisation and it’s important we continually adapt our services and activities to provide the best support we possibly can. Quality and improvement has a central role to play in this and it’s important we continually strive for excellence.

As an organisation it is important to ask ourselves three main questions:

  • “Why” does this organisation exist?
  • “How” does it intend to deliver on its Purpose and its Strategy?
  • “What” has it actually achieved to date? “What” does it intend to achieve tomorrow?

I keep these in mind when I’m working with our services, and I hope I support them to think about their activities in this way in order to be the best service they can be.

The focus on quality and innovation is also important for organisational pride and professional development. Having worked for Penumbra for 12 years and spent time with the vast majority of our staff, it’s clear our staff are proud to be part of such an innovative organisation that values and promotes quality of services. We may not be the biggest mental health charity within Scotland but we have an excellent reputation and I know all of our staff want to maintain this. It gives staff a buzz when they achieve a good Care Inspectorate grade, are recognised by their peers, win accolades & awards for their work and receive positive feedback from people we support, family, friends and carers, and our partners and funders. Equally, striving for excellence and a sector-leading position in recovery focused work enhances our reputation and stands us out from the crowd so it’s also helpful for recruitment.   

Coronavirus has presented obvious challenges in terms of delivery of services. I’m in awe of staff at all levels across the organisation on how we have adapted.

The implementation of Project Skye (our own internal IT/digital project) and its associated modules has certainly assisted our frontline staff in ensuring people have received continuous support – whether via telephone, text, email or online meetings – and maintaining a record of activities and support visits. We’ve been able to prioritise support so that we can maintain contact with the most vulnerable. And of course we’ve embraced digital technology in order to maintain connections with both the people who access our services and our colleagues. Team meetings across the organisation have been instrumental – from the Senior Management Group; COVID-19 Task Force; Health, Safety & Wellbeing Group to service team meetings etc.  The introduction of Practice Reflection Sessions facilitated by our Learning and Development Manager, Nikki Kilburn, have been invaluable and I think the communication from our senior leaders throughout this pandemic has been excellent. Our social media channels – Facebook and Twitter – have been great in sharing practice, maintaining our quality of service, and communicating key messages, service information and snippets of wellbeing resources. 

If there’s one thing that lockdown has underlined it’s the significant role the third sector plays in frontline social care. The sector has a huge part to play in the overall health and wellbeing of people (in fact it’s a larger employer than the NHS) and I think the pandemic has shown the invaluable contribution that those working in the sector make every single day.

Going forward, we’ll do what the third sector does best. We’ll embrace our strengths, adapt creatively to new challenges, and continue to collaborate with partners to provide the best outcomes for people.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Spotlight, Julie. 

Fiona Milne is the Communications Officer for Penumbra and can be contacted at fiona.milne@penumbra.org.uk