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Can football be a game-changer on rating appeals?

By guest blogger BOB FERGUSON

Regulators are stubbornly proprietorial about their rating systems: it’s our ball, so we make the rules. They baulk at any hint of scrutiny beyond checking the syntax of the magic spells that enable overall ratings to emerge like rabbits pulled from a hat, as authoritative as alternative facts. Ratings, we are assured, have not been contaminated by subjective opinions; no, they are products of (drum roll, please) “professional judgements”. In which lofty capacity, they are insulated from accountability with a diligence that is usually reserved for the protection of endangered species; nothing to do with a lack of confidence in their reliability, you understand.

CQC’s opposition to an appeal process has been unshakeable, but it’s a powder puff compared with the bulwark erected by the football establishment around referees’ decisions. For as long as the game has been played on an organised basis, it has been axiomatic that – cliché alert! – the referee’s decision is final. Not any more, it isn’t. Down the years, commentators have underlined the futility of disputing referees’ decisions because “they never change their mind”. Only now they do – routinely.

Once the football authorities recognised that defending the referee’s decision-making autonomy, no matter what, was an analogue policy in a digital age, they swung the needle through 180 degrees to introduce VAR (Video Assistant Referee): a review of the action during matches to identify and correct “clear and obvious errors”. For their part, referees – who had every reason to fear the impact on their authority – set aside considerations of personal status and bought into a system that aims to safeguard the integrity of the game.

Football may be an unconventional cross-cultural reference for care regulators. So what? You learn lessons where you can. Shouldn’t the rigour with which key – formerly irreversible – decisions in football are now interrogated prompt questions about the absolute unreviewable immunity conferred on the components of overall ratings? And isn’t the selflessness exhibited in the referees’ approach to VAR an example worthy of emulation?

For all its magisterial window dressing, the proscription on rating appeals still comes across as thin-skinned petulance. Make no mistake, appeals are banned because they are perceived as threats to CQC’s article of faith: that the inspector’s “professional judgement” is unchallengeable. In this barmy world view, the adjective ”professional” (“sacred” might have been even more appropriate) apparently makes all the difference. Considering the potential ratings have for reputation-shredding, providers should not be asked to carry the risks of such institutionalised self-righteousness.

Regulators would do better to turn the page and embrace appeals as opportunities to demonstrate their judgements are, as they claim, beacons of probity. They may, however, need to have their feet held to the fire. Given CQC’s expectation of forelock-tugging deference from providers, those who are dissatisfied with the fairness of their rating will welcome the leverage promised by the innovatively conceived Small Business Appeals Champion. One of many victims of Whitehall’s Brexit-induced paralysis, it doesn’t appear to have been sacrificed, just parked – albeit in long-stay. Realistically, its potential may never be fulfilled without the active involvement of providers’ organisations. And yet, inexplicably, only Care England has shown any interest so far.

A note of caution: football’s solution is still a work in progress. It has its critics, including a minority who believe that, as currently operated, VAR is the worst thing that has ever happened to the game. Providers should be careful what they wish for.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

2 Replies to “Can football be a game-changer on rating appeals?”

  1. When the CT blog is critical of CQC, followers seem reluctant to comment. Why?
    While I am sympathetic to social care services that get an unfair rating from CQC, I’m equally sympathetic to people (relatives in particular) who get nowhere with CQC when they complain about a highly rated care home that is patently no good. I hear from both sides. These experiences are common. CQC often get it wrong and refuse to put it right.
    However, the answer is not an appeals system. CQC are already very slow to report on their inspections. They inspect for people who use the service and the public. That is supposed to be the point of inspection. Even if they report within their target, it is 10 weeks before an existing or prospective resident or relative can read the report. Even if the report is accurate, this delay renders it almost useless to those who are most affected by it.
    In attempting to improve a fundamentally flawed system (CQC), the effect is to make it even worse. The history of CQC is the steady growth of doing the wrong thing righter, now reaching the stage when we seem to have forgotten what this giant bureaucracy was meant to do in the first place.
    Which brings me back to my first point: why did we go along with this nonsense in the first place, and why are we still remaining complicit or tinkering around with the knot in the noose that holds this millstone around our necks?

    1. John, we are where we are. CQC is not going anywhere any time soon; it’s much more likely to have its reach extended. In which circumstances, your solution, the nuclear option and nothing but the nuclear option, is a counsel of despair.

      As to your opening question: perhaps it’s because nobody bothers to read this stuff, or if they do, they don’t feel strongly about it one way or the other. As far as I know, neither is compulsory. Life is full of disappointments. I have always wanted to move like Jagger – a modest enough aspiration – but I have long since become reconciled to being more of a Cliff Richard type – yes, it really is that bad.

      Let’s face it, we (the know-it-alls) are fishing in a very shallow pool; “shallow” denoting quantity rather than quality, of course. I suppose we can console ourselves with the thought that being ignored is preferable to some of the toxic bilge that can come your way if you dip your toes in the open sewer of social media.

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