High-quality care is something that every care provider aspires to achieve, and as a sector, we have a real commitment to continuous improvement. This is not an easy thing to achieve because we are trying to deliver the best quality we can, on funding and resource packages that are totally inadequate. The Reform Agenda will stress the rights of citizens to high-quality care and support, but unless the Government resources the sector appropriately, it will become increasingly difficult to deliver some of the hallmarks of quality, such as flexibility and choice.
Despite these challenges, I am amazed by the commitment of care providers to deliver a quality service, and the way in which they achieve this, sometimes in difficult circumstances, is truly commendable. One of the ways in which you can define quality is through the quality rating that is given by the Care Quality Commission. Outstanding services are judged by the regulator to be services that are focused on the people who use them, and they are responsive to individuals and their needs and aspirations. When I talk to people who use services, the things they tell me, which for them are the definers of quality, include such basic things as the control they have over their lives, whether the services are responsive and meet their needs, and whether they can have a range of different services at different times. Really responsive quality services are the ones that wrap themselves around the person using care, rather than fitting the service user into the service.
Social care is a relationship-based service, and quality emanates from the staff who provide care. Care staff are truly amazing, and they show so much commitment, empathy, and care for the people they support, and it is incumbent upon us all to make sure the system helps them to do a good job. A cornerstone of quality is the training and development opportunities that are offered to our hard-working and truly fantastic colleagues. I would like to see some clear skills and competency frameworks, and a series of portable qualifications that will take people into a career escalator and show them that they are valued professionals. If we are going to have a quality service, where service users are treated with dignity and respect, we must show the same commitment and respect to our staff.
I am so proud of the way in which this sector constantly strives to improve quality and despite the challenges and difficulties that the sector is going through, the way in which social care staff do the best they can for the people who use services is truly inspiring.