Let’s Talk About Quality… It might not be rock and roll, but it’s an essential part of systems change and ensures we’re doing our jobs well and for the right reasons. Mayday Trust’s Quality Assurance Manager, Ciara Killeen, looks at common misconceptions around the topic and how the Personal Transition Service Accreditation will be breaking the ‘Quality’ mould.

Did you know that it’s World Quality Day today? As a Quality Assurance Manager for Mayday Trust, working with Asset Teams to develop the language, culture and framework of the PTS, I was delighted to know that I had a day. Granted, it is not as good as International Pasta Day (October) or International Chocolate Chip Cookie Day (May) but it is a close 3rd in my diary.

The focus this year for ‘us quality buffs’ was the importance of trust in quality work. Now, I thought, this is something I can really get behind!

There is often an immediate, and natural, mistrust as soon as I say I am a Quality Assurance Manager. This became very obvious when a new member of staff greeted me with, ‘You’re the audit lady! I’ve been warned about you.’ This was only partly said in jest and I do understand why.

What does Google say?

You hear the term ‘quality assurance’ and you immediately think processes, audits, pass and fail, control, restriction. I Googled Quality Assurance… It didn’t make me feel any better:

Firstly, your typical checklist (I am never to be found without my clipboard obviously!). Next, standard services, high satisfaction, business, business, business…..and Quality Assurance is at the centre! Finally, there is that big tick that we all want to see!

The Power of Language

Imagery is only partly to blame – language has a lot to do with it too. This is an issue we reflect on a lot as partners; how the language we use has the power to set people free or entrap them. How the identity we give to people (you are homeless, you should attend homeless art class or this training course for homeless people) can lead to hopelessness, institutionalisation and isolation.

The systems change aspect of the PTS asks us to consider all language, such as how we describe ourselves and the roles we fulfil. So I am a Quality Assurance Manager and I will be working with partners through the PTS Accreditation process but that shouldn’tt mean an immediate horror or mistrust because trust me when I say that this process is different.

An Accreditation with a Difference

As we begin to implement the new PTS Accreditation it is time for us to push the system reset button and develop a new set of expectations; what does a strength-based, personalised accreditation actually mean? Well, for starters, you can forget the clip board and checklist image. The accreditation is all about innovation – the clue is in our name! The accreditation team capture the innovative, localised, person-led responses to developing the movement for change. We are not here to cross check processes or look for problems. The Accreditation Team have real world conversations so that we can capture the experiences and voices of the people working with Coaches and frontline teams.

This all leads to the ultimate reason of why the PTS Accreditation, and my work as Quality Assurance Manager, is so different to expectations; it is not just a quality mark. That’s right, I said it! I am not here to rubber stamp a process. I am breaking out of the quality mould.

Over the initial 2 year prototyping period for the PTS Accreditation, the aim is to establish a benchmark; the evidence to show what a movement for change looks like in reality. The aim is to ‘influence systemic change by doing’, so providing the quality evidence, taken from the accreditation, to demonstrate that personalised, strength-based services work for people experiencing tough times. Immediately this aim places the PTS Accreditation into a completely different space. Organisational achievement is always great, and knowing people are receiving a quality PTS service is extremely important. But I am more interested in the PTS movement for change. The outcome of the accreditation extends way beyond our personal achievements; this could really change people’s lives.

Coming back to where we started….Trust!

And that is why trust in the PTS Accreditation and the Team is so important. I may deal in quality but I am working towards the same aims of the PTS as Innovation Partners and to achieve that we all need to work together, share experiences, be honest and review our practice. And I can give you a big tick too, if that helps?