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Care Inspectorate Quality Grades Explained

November 9, 2022
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When the Care Inspectorate is carrying out an inspection for a care agency in Scotland, they provide an overall evaluation for each key question they inspect, using a 6 point scale from unsatisfactory (1), to excellent (6). Using this framework, the Care Inspectorate assesses five key questions to get a nuanced understanding of the quality of care.

What are Care Inspectorate quality grades?

Let's find out what the five questions are!

  • How well do we support people’s wellbeing?
  • How good is our leadership
  • How good is our staff team?
  • How good is our setting? (Not applicable in home businesses)
  • How well is our care and support planned

These questions are then answered using the quality grade score below. To get deeper into the quality grades and what they mean, we’ve listed each one here in depth: 


The best possible score! Describes a performance which is sector leading, and observes care to be of outstanding high quality. There’s a history of innovative practices and a proven track record of effective practice and high quality performance across a variety of activities. The Care Inspectorate will also be confident that these performances will be maintained. 

Very good

Assigned to performances that overall demonstrate major strengths in terms of supporting positive outcomes for the people that they serve. There are areas for improvement, but they have minimal negative impact on people's overall experience of care. 5 signifies that the care agency doesn’t need major adjustment. 


Applies to care agencies when there are a number of strengths that have a significant effect on people's experiences which outweigh the areas found for improvement. Improvements however, are required in order to ensure more positive outcomes concerning people's wellbeing. 


Applies when there are some strengths that have been identified, and these strengths just outweigh the weaknesses. This ranking may be given to care agencies that are going through a transition period, or where a particular service is not yet fully implemented. However, continued performance at this level is unacceptable, and improvements are made by addressing elements that do not support positive experiences for the people in their care. 


Applies in situations where strengths have been observed but they are outweighed by the weaknesses that negatively impact people's experiences and outcomes of care. Improvement is treated as a matter of priority, with action in the form of planned improvements by the provider or partnerships, with evidence to demonstrate that clear improvements have been made. 


Occurs when major weaknesses are apparent, and it’s likely that people’s welfare or safety will be at risk which is intolerable. These ratings require immediate action to improve the experiences and outcomes for people in their care. 

Why are Care Inspectorate grades important for your Homecare Business?

Care Inspectorate grades are important for your homecare business for multiple reasons. 

They help to evaluate where you are now, and what you can do better

The Care Inspectorate’s 6th question in their framework is how you can do better. After the evaluations have taken place, it’s up to the agencies to begin to write up improvement plans on areas that may need improvement. It's a great way to be able to see where the blind spots are, and how to change them accordingly. 

They strive for transparency and honesty

All reports are published on the Care Inspectorate’s website, allowing for transparency and honesty within the inspectorate process. Care agencies should focus on priding themselves to ensure they are able to deliver outstanding care to their recipients. 

They’re a reflection of your care

The CI encourages care agencies to consistently monitor their progress through self evaluations. The scores allow homecare businesses to be honest with themselves and to see if their standard of care is as good as it can be and where they can improve. 

They help build collaboration and trust between care recipients and the carers

As a part of the inspection process, inspectors will most likely speak to family members, the care recipients themselves and individual carers to get a thorough understanding of an individual's care. Because of this, both care recipients and carers can be at the focal point of the inspection, and care recipients can be clear about their needs and how they feel their care can be improved. 

They can help create better leadership 

As discussed above, the Care Inspectorate judges a range of areas to summarise how well a care agency is performing, through this process, carers are encouraged and empowered to be attentive to self evaluation, and are supported through the implementation of improvement plans. Carers can feel like their hard work is reflected in the grades they receive, which will help carers feel confident and empowered when carrying out their care. 

How to Improve Care Inspectorate Quality grades?

The Care Inspectorate is based on transparency and honesty, which is, great news! Care agencies are able to self evaluate their own quality of care consistently in order to ensure they are performing at excellent levels. The Care Inspectorate provides a quality framework, as well as a toolbox and quality indicators for care agencies to fully understand what the Care Inspectorate will expect from them during their visit. Birdie has done a deep dive into the self evaluation process in a separate article here, to understand how care agencies can use that particular process to help them improve.

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