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  1. 1. Quality Assurance for Social and Therapeutic Horticulture ‘CULTIVATING QUALITY’ THRIVE QUALITY ASSURANCE SCHEME Many voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) are skilled in delivering innovative projects and essential services on scant resources, usually with clear missions and goals; they play a vital role in their local communities – none more so than projects offering Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. The best VCO’s also strive to continuously improve their performance – to do more and to do better. Planning, managing, measuring and reporting their performance in a systematic way can help them achieve this. Performance improvement is used to describe the process of “increasing the impact of an organisation in fulfilling its aims and objectives for the maximum benefit of its users/members and the cause” Source: Improving our performance: a strategy for the voluntary and community sector. Quality Standards Task Group April 2004. The concept of quality is difficult, and the meaning elusive, being put to different uses, to serve different purposes. In essence, a systematic attention to detail, within a strategic framework of polices and values, is the key to quality. Quality management originally evolved as a branch of industrial engineering science (Bone, 1994). As interest in quality issues developed, a range of techniques, all dedicated in different ways to improving the quality of goods and services, was being initiated in manufacturing and service industries in Japan, America and Europe. In common with other managerial ideas and approaches, quality management has taken time to move from its original home in industrial manufacturing through the service sector, health care, public bureaucracies and finally the voluntary sector. The government’s desire for an increased role in service delivery for the voluntary sector – highlighted by published documents such as ‘Private Action, Public Benefit – A review of Charities and the Wider-Not-For- Profit Sector (Strategy Unit 2002), along with initiatives such as the ‘Best Value’ approach (Donnelly, 1999), have put increasing pressure and emphasis on the importance of transparency, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness. Demands for user, carer, and community involvement in the development, delivery and quality assurance of services have acted as further pushes towards quality improvement. A large number of quality systems are in use in the voluntary sector, some well known, some less so; some generic and some sector specific; some focusing on all aspects of an organisation’s activities, some on one particular part. However, there are no professional standards, outside statutory regulations, that help steer the development and progress of Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, Thrive, with the guidance of the Charities Thrive Briefing Evaluation Service, have designed and developed Cultivating Quality (CQ). Initially developed from Thrive’s original ‘Guidelines for Good Sheet no: Practice’, written by practitioners and adopted by them in 1999. These were always intended to be the basis of a more extensive set of standards. Developed also, because, generic systems did not meet the needs of projects working within the specialist field of social and therapeutic horticulture. 14
  2. 2. The scheme itself is an adaptation of the PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations) quality assurance system. This offers the practitioner the assurance of using an established and valued scheme with the addition of specialised information running throughout the entire scheme, meeting the needs of gardening projects. The framework is a self-assessment tool; with eleven standards, including two unique standards that relate specifically to working in a garden project and using the medium of horticulture. It demonstrates that the introduction of a quality system can offer improved work practices, improved services for clients, improved funding and partnership opportunities, and collectively to help legitimise the use of horticulture as a mainstream activity to deliver client needs, be they social, health, educational or work related. It will also assist in building a strong cohesive and professional network of social and therapeutic horticulture projects. Cultivating Quality can be applied to the full range of projects no matter what their focus - employment, health, therapy or training – however large or small – independent or part of a larger organisation, and whether or not they serve a particular client group or multi-client groups. The adoption and use of a quality system such as Cultivating Quality takes commitment, time, planning and the investment of resources, but should assist in supporting performance improvement and the ever- increasing demands placed upon projects. Implementing Cultivating Quality not only assists in aligning all the different requirements of quality assurance, (evidence produced once, can be used as many times as necessary) it is also an important way of preparing to meet future challenges. References/Bibliography Bone, C.(1994) Modern Quality Management Manual, Longman, Essex Charities Evaluation Services (2002) First Steps in Quality, CES, London Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector (1996) Meeting the challenge of change: voluntary action into the 21st century, CFVS/NCVO London Donnelly, M. (1999) ‘Making the difference: quality strategy in the public sector’, Managing Service Quality, Bedford, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp47-52 Growth Point, Issue 80, Winter 2000, ‘The Guidelines for Good Practice in Therapeutic Horticulture’ pp9-13 Strategy Unit (2002) Private Action, Public Benefit – a review of Charities and the Wider Not-For-Profit Sector, Strategy Unit, London
  3. 3. Thrive Quality Regional Champions Region Project Client base Sector Quality & numbers Stat/Vol/PL Scheme/s C South Thrive Trunkwell MD Community ALI East Garden Project, 14-84 yrs Voluntary CQ Reading 60+ LSC- 0118 988 4844 (SAR) South HMP Grendon & Offenders Statutory HMIP East Springhill, Adult males CQ Aylesbury 560 0129 644 3152 South Minstead Training LD Voluntary ALI East College, 18+ CQ Lyndhurst KEY: 0238 081 4134 ALI = Adult Learning London Thirve Battersea MD Voluntary RNID Expectorate Garden Project 14-80yrs ALI CQ = Cultivating Quality 0207 720 212 CQ HMIE = Her Majesty’s South Shaw Trust, MD Voluntary IIP Inspectorate of Education West Salisbury 18-65yrs CQ (Quality Framework) 0172 233 7192 HMIP = Her Majesty’s South Richmond MH Voluntary IIP Inspectorate of Prisons West Fellowship 18-65yrs CQ IIP = Investors in People TWIGS, LD = Learning disability Swindon LSC = Learning & Skills 0179 352 3294 Council South Oak Park Day LD / VI Private Ltd Quality MD = Multiple disability West Service 17-63yrs Co. process Bodmin, Cornwall OFSTED = Office for S/S Standards in Education 0120 887 1422 CQ PD = Physical disability West Where Next LD / PD Voluntary ALI PQASSO = Practical Quality Midlands Nurseries, 14-75yrs IIP Redditch Assurance System for Small CQ Organisations 0152 769 955 West Ideal for All, MD Voluntary IIP RNID = Royal National Midlands Growing Under 4’s CQ Institute for the Deaf – Opportunities, (Sure Start) (Louder than words Smethwick 7-90yrs Quality Charter) 0121 555 7959 SAR = Self Assessment East Charnwood LD Voluntary PQASSO Review Midlands Gardening 18yrs + (level 1) S/S = Social Services Project, 20 CQ SQMS = Scottish Quality Loughborough 0150 963 1774 Management System North Horticare LD Statutory IIP West (Cumbria County 18yrs + CQ Council), 21 Kendal 0153 977 3518 East St Elizabeth’s LD Voluntary IIP Centre, (inc severe OFSTED Much Hadham epilepsy) CQ 0127 984 4257 18yrs + ext 257 70 Yorks & Northdale LD Voluntary CQ Humber Horticulture, 18yrs + Northallerton 32 0160 977 0269 Scotland Suntrap Garden PD & Voluntary SQMS Project, exclusion (possibly HMIE Edinburgh from ed. future PLC) CQ 0131 339 7283 12yrs +
  4. 4. Number of recorded projects per government region Frequency Percentage South East 129 16.3 South West 98 12.4 Scotland 88 11.1 West Midlands 76 9.6 London 73 9.2 Yorkshire & Humberside 59 7.4 North West 57 7.2 Eastern 56 7.1 East Midlands 56 7.1 Wales 48 7.1 North East 33 4.2 Northern Ireland 14 1.8 Ireland/Eire 5 .6 TOTAL 792 100.0 Data Source: A summary of the details provided by the Thrive/Loughborough University research project. Health, Well-being and social inclusion. Therapeutic horticulture in the UK (Published May 2005). A total of 836 projects filled in a questionnaire, but not all respondents answered all questions. The number of respondents providing information is given at the bottom of the table. The Southeast region has the highest number of recorded projects and on mainland Britain the Northeast region has the lowest. There are projects in each region and country and in each county of England. Thrive does not have any office or staff in Ireland and the projects known are likely to be an under-estimation of the activity taking place. The Cultivating Quality Regional Champion selection process endeavoured to include a diverse range of projects, covering all the government regions. However, there is no representation for Wales at this present time.