In its broadest sense PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT covers everything we do. Why else would you train people or conduct a review other than to improve performance? But the term has taken on a rather specialised meaning in social services in recent years, at least in England. About two years ago the Department of Health introduced a system of star rating for English local authorities: their performance was assessed as warranting three, two, one or no stars based on their performance indicators (PIs) and the reports of the Audit Commission Joint Reviews and the inspection of services by the Social Services Inspectorate. The current list can be found at

The concomitant of this rating system of course was that some authorities performed very poorly and were publicly identified as doing so. So the Department of Health set up an improvement programme and a performance fund for all authorities. You can find out more about this at For the zero star authorities SSI has been very directly involved in devising an improvement strategy with each of them. They have invited the big consultancies to bid to provide Performance Action Teams to help implement the strategy. So far the successful consultancies have been KPMG, Deloitte and Touche and Price Waterhouse Cooper. The intervention appears to have been a success. Of the four authorities originally identified for these special measures only Birmingham remains zero rated.

SSSP Consultants Ltd. have been involved from the beginning, as a sub-contractor to KPMG in Coventry. Since then Keith Fletcher has been a member of a performance action team (PAT) almost continuously; in Haringey and now Oldham with KPMG and in Plymouth with Deloitte and Touche. In the past two years he has become one of the most experienced consultants in the country with special knowledge of helping people who feel battered and demoralised to feel more in control of their performance and to climb the ladder out of the hole they are in.

Of course performance improvement is not confined to this kind of whole service consultancy delivering several work streams at once. Perhaps a particular aspect of your service is causing you and its managers special concern. Give us a call in that case; let us have a discussion about a possible strategy to tackle the problem and how, if at all, we might be able to help. We don't have a general formula but our philosphy is to work out an improvement strategy with you which we help you to implement. It works!

© SSSP Consultants Ltd. February 2004