Opportunity Links Matrix Accreditation Review Report


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The report on our 2009 matrix accreditation review for the Family Information Services we deliver to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

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Opportunity Links Matrix Accreditation Review Report

  1. 1. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Commercial in Confidence matrix Accreditation Review Report for OPPORTUNITY LINKS CHILDCARE INFORMATION SERVICES for CAMBRIDGESHIRE AND PETERBOROUGH By Christine M. Smart On behalf of EMQC Assessment Date: 5th – 6th February 2009 TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/071
  2. 2. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report CONTENTS 1. Executive Summary 3 2. Introduction 4 3. The Background 4 4. Methodology 6 5. Findings and Areas for Development 7 6. Strengths and Areas of Good Practice 14 7. Outcome of the Review’s Objectives 14 8. Summary of the Potential Areas for Continuous Development 15 TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/072
  3. 3. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 1. Executive Summary Having carried out the Assessment in accordance with the guidelines provided, Opportunity Links Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it currently meets the matrix quality standard for its information advice and guidance services. Accreditation to the matrix Standard is granted for the external services provided by Opportunity Links. This Assessment Report covers the services provided by Opportunity Links Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and includes a brief description of the organisation, the Assessment methodology and an overview of how the organisation meets the matrix Standard. The Assessor found four areas of Strength and Good Practice and nine areas that Opportunity Links might like to consider for development. Three key points are evident from the Assessment. First, the enthusiasm to respond to new challenges and a clear commitment to continuous quality improvement. Secondly, the verbal feedback provided by clients and partners, praising so highly the service provided by the staff. Thirdly, the way in which the client is central to everything that they do. In the ensuing pages, it will be found that there is demonstrable evidence of quality improvement being important to Opportunity Links and the plans for its continuing development. It was evident throughout the Assessment that the staff of Opportunity Links were aware of the principles set out by the National IAG Board. The client’s view of the Opportunity Links can be summed up in the words of the person who said: “I was completely amazed by the quality of the service provided. They asked me some questions from which they were able to establish what type of childcare I was looking for. They didn’t try to ‘sell’ me something I didn’t want. They even looked at what was available around where we work – no stone was unturned. A truly remarkable service that I cannot praise highly enough.” TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/073
  4. 4. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 2. Introduction This Report has been written following the Assessment of the information, advice and guidance (IAG) service provided by Opportunity Links Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It includes a brief description of the organisation, the Assessment methodology and confirmation that Opportunity Links meets the matrix quality standard for information advice and guidance services. The objective of the Assessment was to: • Achieve continuing Accreditation to the matrix Standard for the external IAG service The ensuing Report will show how the Standard has been applied by Opportunity Links and the steps taken to maintain Accreditation. It illustrates the organisation’s commitment to the development and improvement of their IAG Service. 3. The Background Since the Assessment in January 2006, Opportunity Links has continued to develop its IAG Service to support parents and carers and those who provide childcare services. According to the Request for Assessment, they are: “…committed to helping parents/carers make important life choices through good quality information, advice and guidance. …the IAG Services team delivers the Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council.” In April 2008, legislation1 changed their responsibilities to reflect ‘Family Information Services’ rather than ‘Childcare Information Services’ which will enable them to provide information families in the wider sense.’ The recommendations in the previous Report have been used in this Assessment to provide a view of Opportunity Link’s approach to continuous quality improvement. It was found that they continue to be committed to finding the most appropriate methods through which they can provide comprehensive support to families. This ranges from the helpline and website offer information and advice about local childcare provision, paying for childcare, childcare as a career and other supporting family information. As the requirements of the 2008 legislation takes effect, Opportunity Links intends to expand so that they can fully encompass the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda and the requirements of the new Childcare Act. They intend to broaden the remit of their service to include information about services for children and young people up to the age of 20 and to make information more easily accessible to the community through Children’s Centres and Extended Schools across the region. Their mission statement is: “We believe that people should have access to quality information to empower and support them in the choices they make.” 1 Section 12 of the ‘Childcare Act 2008’ TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/074
  5. 5. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report According to the Request for Assessment, the number of people eligible to receive the service in one year is shown as, “5796” who are supported by eight members of staff. Opportunity Links also identified that they worked with about 154 partners in the statutory and non-statutory sectors. Since January 2006, Opportunity Links has worked effectively towards maintaining their Accreditation to the matrix Standard. The ensuing Report sets out to illustrate how they have successfully continued their matrix Accreditation journey. It shows how they are performing within a national quality framework. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/075
  6. 6. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 4. Methodology The Assessor used a range of methods to gather evidence against the matrix Standard: • The Review took place over two days. • The first interview was undertaken with the IAG Services Development Manager who was the lead for the Assessment. This provided an opportunity to discuss developments since 2006 and the suggestions made in the previous Report. • The Managing Director was interviewed face-to-face. Discussions surrounded the organisations approach to quality and the continuing relevance of the matrix Standard. • The Opportunity Links Sector Team Manager was interviewed by telephone to explore how it was intended to develop the IAG Service. • Six members of staff provided information about how they delivered the service. • Over the two days, twenty clients were interviewed by telephone. Some were clients who wished to find childcare and some who wanted to provide childcare. • A variety of partners were interviewed by telephone. They included: - Information Strategy Manager, Early Years and Childcare Team, Peterborough City Council - NHS Childcare Co-ordinator - CWRC Central Service Manager - Area Operations Manager, Peterborough Children’s Centre, Westwood and Ravensthorpe - Centre Manager, Burwell and Cheveley Children’s Centre - Head of Early Years and Childcare Services, Peterborough City Council - Jobcentre Plus Communications Manager (formerly Childcare Partnership Manager) - PLA Area Manager • A variety of documentary evidence was provided during the Review. While reinforcing the fact that the matrix Assessment is not reliant upon paper-based systems, the contents afforded the opportunity to examine policy and practice documents. • The IAG Services Development Manager attended an update meeting at the end of the first day and also the final feedback meeting. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/076
  7. 7. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 5. Findings and Areas for Development This Report relating to the Assessment of Opportunity Links Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has been prepared in a style that differs from previous Assessment Reports relating to the matrix Standard. At the time of the Assessment, it was agreed that it would be focused upon certain key business processes to assist future development. These headings are taken from page 5 of, “The matrix Journey.” This Section seeks to include the findings from the Assessment and to identify areas for development, which are addressed under some key business processes. Concluding this Section are comments relating to the Service and the outcome of the Assessment. Planning (elements 1, 5) The Strategic Business Plan 2008 – 11 which was published in July 2008 shows the aim: “Embed flow and synergy between core Opportunity Links services to deliver a one a team approach IAG/Consultancy/Technical.” There is also a Business Plan for IAG Services dated 28th May 2008. It reflects the Mission Statement of Opportunity Links which is recorded in the Background to this Report. The aims and objectives of their IAG service are also reflected in the Service Level Agreements with Peterborough City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council. Since the 2006 Assessment, Opportunity Links has been restructured twice. The IAG section now works closely with the Consultancy Team and this reflects the aim shown at the commencement of this section. Staff said: “We all had the opportunity to say how we thought we could improve upon service delivery. We had to take into account the changes that were occurring following last year’s legislation. The subsequent result does allow us to share our ideas far more readily which is encouraged.” “We really do appear to have more opportunities to work with external agencies. It might be coincidental but I think we do know that it is as a result of the changes that have been made.” It can be seen from these statement how there are regular opportunities for members of Opportunity Links to contribute to the development of their IAG service. The company’s policies, which cover key areas of service delivery, can be found in a hard copy and were also provided electronically. Over the last three years, Opportunity Links has also developed its ‘brokerage offer’ and more will be said about this later in this Report. Staff were able to say how they kept up-to-date with legislation and the importance of this in relation to their field of work. In particularly, they highlighted the Childcare Act of 2006 and ‘Every Child Matters.’ The development of Opportunity Links over the past three years reflects upon the importance of investment in their IAG service to ensure that all clients are given efficient and effective support. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/077
  8. 8. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Information (elements 2, 3, 4) Opportunity Links uses a variety of formats to publish information about its services. Each of their leaflets, which provide information about their services in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, are easily recognisable. The information about the services the company provides can also be found on the relevant pages of their Web site. Many clients said how they had ‘Googled’ childcare and when they found Opportunity Links site had then used the telephone number to seek further information. Several commented upon the difficulty they found they could not move on in the site once they had made their selection until they had clicked on the bottom arrow twice. At the time of the Review, it was noted that the Web site was to be reviewed and updated. The company might find it beneficial to involve clients with this. From the Web site, it is also possible to download a variety of PDF and Word documents. Whilst clients found these to be useful, it was suggested that Opportunity Links might also like to consider developing, ‘Frequently Asked Question’ (FAQ) sheets as the fuller documentation was sometimes considered to be too much. There is a clear procedure for ensuring that clients are informed of Opportunity Link’s approach to confidentiality. Clients are asked if they are happy to have their personal information kept on the database. If they decline, the key indicators are recorded so that the contact can be recorded. Clients said: “I didn’t appreciate at first as to why they didn’t have addresses of the childcare places on their Web site. Then when they spoke about my personal details it all fell into place. It certainly gives you confidence in the service.” “I didn’t want to tell them anything about my daughter because you just never know these days – they respected my wishes and also assured me that their approach to confidentiality was water tight.” During the Review, staff spoke of how they are trained to ensure that issues relating to Safeguarding are noted and actioned as appropriate. It was less clear how clients were told about Opportunity Link’s approach to Diversity. There is a comprehensive policy in place. It might be possible for the company to consider including a short statement about Diversity and Confidentiality on their Web site when it is updated. There may also be an opportunity to consider how staff might relate the company’s approach to Diversity should the situation arise. The January 2006 Report suggested that they, “…might like to consider setting a date for review of the same to ensue that they are checked for accuracy on an appropriately regular basis.” Whilst this related to the review of the Confidentiality and Diversity Policies which appeared to have been reviewed, there was not a clear procedure for ensuring that policies and procedures are regularly checked for accuracy and currency. Access to the service provided by Opportunity Links was seen to be adequate for all who wished to use it. Clients spoke highly of the information that they had received from the staff in Opportunity Links. They were keen to relate its relevance to their needs and to how staff had ensured that they got back to them if the answer to their questions were not readily to hand. “I couldn’t believe it! I thought I was going to get through to someone at the Council and that I would only have a few minutes to say what I wanted as they are all target driven these days. To my absolute amazement, I was given all the time in the world and able to ask all of my TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/078
  9. 9. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report questions. It is and excellent service. They even asked me if there was anything else they could help me with!” All of the people spoken to during the two day Review were impressed by the friendliness of the staff who provided the services and praised the support and encouragement that they had been given. It was noted from interviews that IAG was imparted in a manner consistent with the matrix Standard and many expressions of satisfaction were provided. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/079
  10. 10. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Resources (elements 1, 5, 6) The resources of Opportunity Links are used to good effect. This was evidenced in discussions with the Managing Director, Opportunity Links Sector Team Manager and the IAG Services Development Manager. Discussions took place during the Assessment about how the development of IT solutions to support Local Authorities with the requirements placed on them by the Children’s Act. Whilst this was not part of the Review, it showed how the company was developing its service and how in the future, they might wish to consider including the whole company in a matrix Assessment. During the Assessment, the impartiality on finding the best possible solution to issues or queries was noted. Partners said: “There has been a real shift in emphasis since (name) took over the reins. It has made such a difference and has given us greater confidence in them. We know now that when they say they will do something, they do.” “They really do help to keep us on our toes in terms of the issues we need to think about. I guess it is because they are at the coal face and interacting on a daily basis with the client group. They certainly network well and somebody always comes to the relevant meetings so that they can contribute fully to developments.” “I think it is important that we have confidence in them to do the right thing. What I am driving at is when they can’t provide the support. They have an impressive range of partner organisations to whom they refer. They never try to deal with things that they are not qualified to do.” “They don’t only provide support by phone and on the Web but also via out reach. They go out and talk to the Mums (and sometimes Dads) and Baby groups. At the same time, they may also talk about the role of the new Children’s Centres. We are looking to do project work together.” It is important to the staff that they maintain close working relationships with their extensive network to ensure excellent support for their clients. The discussions with external partners highlighted the confidence they had in the staff of Opportunity Links, respect for the impartial manner in which they were assisted and agreement that their collaborative approach led to positive strategic and operational benefits. It was evident that there is a comprehensive manner in which induction to the company and to the IAG service is undertaken. The Induction included an explanation of the Staff Policies and Procedures and procedures relating to Opportunity Links. Members of staff spoke about their familiarisation with equipment and administrative procedures, highlighting the consequences of their initial induction and the benefits of the ongoing supervision and support provided. Training and development opportunities are afforded commensurate with role and every encouragement is given to staff to further their knowledge. Each member of staff clearly understood their defined role. Each area is adequately equipped to carry out its key functions and all of the staff are appropriately qualified to deliver their particular service. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0710
  11. 11. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Staff spoke well of their opportunities for development and were able to reflect the company’s commitment to staff development. This was highlighted also in the company’s HR Strategy with the strap line of: “One Team – Right People Right Place” Several members of staff spoke about how they had undertaken an NVQ in IAG and the benefits they felt this had to their work. All members of staff were able to say how they kept up to date with legislation and provided information to substantiate this. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0711
  12. 12. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Marketing (elements 1, 2) Many of the clients who were interviewed highlighted their ease of access to Opportunity Links and emphasised the approachability and willingness of staff to assist. “If you find something really good you want to tell people about it. That’s why I filled in my questionnaire because I wanted to say a big thank you.” “I spoke to such a nice person. They looked at all sorts of options for me and were so patient throughout the call. When you are new to an area it is wonderful to find a service like this. They certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.” “You don’t expect to find people genuinely interested in helping you with childcare and yet that is just what happened. They sent me a lot of information which was really helpful. They seemed so caring and even rang me after I had received the pack to see if there was anything else they could do to help.” “I worry about how they will survive – there can’t be that many people ringing up and it would be such a pity to see them fold.” “The person I spoke to was fantastic. They really knew their job and answered everything I asked. The information was absolutely perfect and we were able to discuss the pros and cons of each type of childcare – I couldn’t have wished for better.” “They really know the meaning of the extra mile. When I rang up they had problems with their IT system and I wanted the information by e-mail. Well, it was sent to me and then they rang to make sure that I had received it. And there was me thinking I would have to keep chasing them for it. They really are brilliant.” Printed literature to carry key messages to clients is well-designed and branded. However, it was noted that they included neither a date nor a version number. It is suggested that Opportunity Links might like to consider a process that would address this as reprints are required in the future. In the meantime, they might like to think about including a note to draw client’s attention to information that might be out of date and say which aspects are still current. All staff were keen to demonstrate how they wanted to provide a seamless service for all clients. In terms of raising the profile of the organisation and the comment above about how they might survive, the company might like to consider how it informs their client group about their activities. There were many instances provided where they had made a difference in terms of access to childcare or information about training in this vocation. This might also help with reaching out to those groups who might not normally access the service. As such, the company might also like to consider the potential benefit of profiling their client group and breaking down each segment so that they might gain even greater insight into their needs. It was evident throughout the Review that staff ensure that their service is provided without bias. Emphasis was made of their approach to impartiality. Many clients expressed disappointment that Opportunity Links could not make recommendations but understood the reason why. Opportunity Links also takes care to ascertain how clients might wish to receive information. Some said how they found the e-mail option preferable to, ‘snail mail.’ Others found the hard copy more useful and said that they had filed it away for future reference. A few clients said that they would find it useful if information could be provided through their text messaging service. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0712
  13. 13. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report Continuous Quality Improvement (elements 7, 8) The Japanese have a word, which encompasses the spirit of continuous quality improvement that is ‘kaizen.’ It asks, ‘What have I done differently today to how I did it yesterday and have I done it better?’ There is no doubt that Opportunity Links makes effective use of this approach. The arrangements for feedback on the quality of the service provided were examined. Overall, this was very positive and few complaints had been received that had not been resolved locally. Staff were able to advise her how complaints were addressed and outcomes communicated to those involved. It is evident how the actions reflect the spirit of the matrix Standard. Opportunity Links uses written questionnaires as well as encouraging electronic responses to obtain feedback about their service. The questionnaire is prepared following client contact and sent out four weeks later via a simple but effective, ‘pigeon hole’ system. It is also possible to set this up in advance on the e-mail system where clients prefer contact electronically. The company has prepared well for its wider remit as part of the, ‘Family Information Service’ for both Local Authorities that they work with. As a consequence, they anticipate that this will enable them to provide a more comprehensive and co-ordinated information service to families. The IAG team have developed their brokerage offer. At the time of the Review, they were in the process of piloting a service from the Histon office for parents and carers of disabled children in Cambridgeshire. This will include out reach which may include domiciliary visits as well as visits through the main conduit of Children’s Centres. For the future, Opportunity Links is planning to extend the scope and remit of their team to include a wider age range. This work is due to commence this year. There are also some suggestions arising from the interviews that can be found earlier in this Report that the company might like to consider. An extensive range of people provided a rounded picture of service delivery throughout the two day Review and the importance of the matrix Standard to Opportunity Links as a measure of the quality of the service that they provide was evident. The company might like to consider how it might use the matrix Standard across the whole organisation. There may also be an opportunity for consideration to be given to applying the matrix Standard to the internal service. Allied to this is the opportunity to put in place simple measures that might over time demonstrate the extent to which the service to clients has improved. From this, an application for a matrix Excellence Award might ensue. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0713
  14. 14. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 6. Strengths and Areas of Good Practice The following four areas are considered to be a reflection the strengths and good practice provided by Opportunity Links Childcare Information Service, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. The numbers and letters in brackets refer to the relevant elements and criteria of the matrix Standard. • A continual theme from interviews with clients and partners was the approachability and willingness to help exhibited by staff. The Review identified a highly customer-focused team, with the personal style of communicating with clients and partners that is highly valued. (1, 2, 3, 4) • The capacity to network across a wide variety of organisations illustrates how Opportunity Links ensures that information about their service can be promoted in statutory and non-statutory bodies. (5g) • The verbal feedback provided to the Assessor by all of the people that she spoke with, praising the enthusiasm of the staff and the service provided by all. (7d) • The commitment to continuous quality improvement through the rigorous approach to supporting the ethos of the organisation of the client at the centre and through the development of such project pilots as that relating to childcare requirements for children with a disability. (8c, 8d) 7. Outcome of the Objective for the Assessment The developmental areas identified within this Report are aimed at adding value to the clients, partners and staff who work with Opportunity Links. The decision to continue to Accredit the external IAG Service is indicative that it is achieving a service level sufficient to meet all elements of the matrix Standard. It is hoped that the style of this Report will meet the objective of being customer focused and assist the future development of Opportunity Links Childcare Information Services for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as they continue their journey towards the Standard. The objective for the Assessment was: • Achieve continuing Accreditation to the matrix Standard for the external IAG service It is considered that the findings of this Report illustrate that this objective has been addressed in full. TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0714
  15. 15. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report 8. Summary of the Potential Areas for Continuous Development The following section shows the areas that Opportunity Links Childcare Information Service for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough may like to consider for Continuous Development. It is noted that those areas suggested in the 2006 Report had been addressed. There are nine areas where further development may improve the quality of the service. The numbers and letters in brackets refer to the relevant elements and criteria in the matrix quality standard for information advice and guidance services . • Opportunity Links might like to review how staff are trained to make clients aware of the company’s Diversity Policy as appropriate. This may include using a variety of case studies highlighting the implications of such situations as where a caller is making demands about the type of child that would not be acceptable in a nursery or placed with a childminder with their own child. (2b) • During the Review, the opportunity to explore the use of the Internet was taken. Overall, it showed that most callers who used the Net as a source of finding Opportunity Links were then attracted to the phone number. This was because several found the site difficult to navigate and were confused by the apparent disfunctioning of the ‘button at the bottom.’ It was noted that the Web page was to be reviewed during 2009 and the reasons for the delay likewise. Opportunity Links might like to consider how clients might be encouraged to put forward their ideas about the development of the site through to the revised site going live. (3b, 3d) • It was noted that many of the marketing materials did not have dates or a version number. As the documents come up for re-ordering or renewal, it is suggested that Opportunity Links might like to consider including dates and version numbers so that they are able to confirm the accuracy and currency of the item. (3b) • The policies and procedures held by the company are dated. However, there does not appear to be a process to ensure that they are reviewed and checked for compliance with the current legislation. Opportunity Links may like to consider how this task might be developed and perhaps consider how the team might be involved. (5e, 5d) • The information provided on the Web site is extensive. Again, it was unclear as to how and when the various pages were updated. There was a substantial amount of information in PDF and Word format on the Parent Direct Page. It was thought that the company might like to review such pages and the questions that are regularly asked so that information such as a FAQ sheet may also be included. (3c,3d) TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0715
  16. 16. Ref: 08/2200 matrix Accreditation Review Report • Many clients said they had been surprised by the quality of the service provided by Opportunity Links and were also unaware of the range of advice that could be provided. It was suggested that the company might like to consider developing a means of promoting themselves through, for example, publicising information about the projects they are involved with and the successes that ensue. (8c) • Undoubtedly, the questionnaire and the questions asked of caller’s shows how the company proactively seeks the views of its clients. Opportunity Links might like to consider how it might use some face-to-face opportunities to seek feedback from clients which might begin with the review of the Web site. This may also include a review of literature to ensure that what is being provided is what is needed. (7b, 7c) • As part of an ongoing Accreditation Strategy, Opportunity Links might consider extending the use of the matrix Standard to extend their Accreditation to include other service areas of the company. They may also wish to consider an application for the internal service to be Assessed. (8) • The opportunity also exists to put forward an application that might demonstrate the quality of the service provided, from which an application for a matrix Excellence Award might result. (8) TMX05 – AR I 2 – 05/0716