Introducing assessments of local authorities

Page last updated: 23 February 2024

Assessing how local authorities meet their Care Act duties is a new responsibility for CQC.

We have taken a phased approach to introducing the assessments. This has enabled us to:

  • test, refine and further develop our approach through pilot assessments
  • gather information to help develop our understanding of performance across local authorities
  • establish a starting point to use as the basis for future assessments
  • build relationships within each of the areas.

We completed a formal evaluation of the pilot assessments. We have used the learning from this first phase to update this guidance as we move into the next phase of ongoing assessment. 

Some of the insights gained from our pilot assessments are included in our State of Care report for 2022/23

We will update the guidance as we further develop and refine our approach.

Pilot assessments and national data review

Pilot assessments

Five local authorities took part in pilot assessments starting in May 2023.

We have published a report for each of these local authorities. This includes:

  • indicative scores for all the quality statements
  • an overall indicative rating.

We emphasise that these are not formal ratings.

National data review

Also in this period, we reviewed data from all 153 local authorities in England, focusing on themes in these 2 quality statements:

This involved looking mainly at data that is already published, such as Market Position Statements and Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. This helped to identify themes and insight on access, commissioning, market shaping, workforce and personalisation.

Our overall findings from this review are included in our State of Care report 2022/23.

Initial formal assessments

We aim for our initial formal assessment period to last 24 months. During this phase, we are using the learning from the pilot assessments, and will carry on developing and refining our approach. 

For all 153 local authorities, we aim to gather the evidence that we need to:

  • complete initial assessments
  • award ratings
  • report on our findings.

How often we will assess during the initial formal assessment period

Within this 2-year period, we intend to assess each relevant local authority once.

However, in exceptional circumstances, we may need to carry out more than one assessment if there are issues of concern. For example, we may do this if:

  • we believe people are or may be at risk of harm
  • we have previously carried out an assessment where we have identified serious risks to people and need assurance that improvements have been made.

We look at each issue of concern on a case-by-case basis when deciding whether to carry out any additional assessments.

Period of assessment

Our assessments start when we send an information return to local authorities with adult social care functions. They end when we publish our reports.

During the assessment, we intend to look at evidence that relates to the 12 months preceding the start of the assessment (when we send the information return). This is the period to which the assessment relates.

However, we may look at evidence outside of the 12-month period. Examples of when we will do this include:

  • when we need to look at data that is published every 2 years
  • when looking at organisational strategies and policies.

In exceptional circumstances, it may be appropriate for us to look at information of concern that is several years old. We will only consider this if it is significant and relevant to our current assessment. Our assessment teams will consider each individual case to make these decisions.

If we identify serious risks to people during an assessment (‘assessment A’) we will follow these up in a further assessment (‘assessment B’). The period that the follow-up assessment (B) relates to is:

  • from the date of publication of the report for assessment A
  • to the date when we publish the report for the follow-up assessment (B).

Ongoing assessment

When we have carried out an initial formal assessment of all local authorities, we will be able to understand how well they are meeting their Care Act duties as a starting point.

We will then begin our longer-term approach to regular ongoing assessments.