Committed skilled staff and cutting edge initiatives are
highlighted in Essex social services department’s joint review.
Family group conferences, the take-up of direct payments, and
the learning difficulty strategy are a sample of the initiatives
picked out for praise by government inspectors.
A good range of services for people with learning difficulties,
people with mental health problems, and people with physical and
sensory disabilities were one of the department’s key
Other strengths included good relationships with health
authorities, trusts and primary care groups, and the department’s
new supervision and performance management review scheme.
Recruitment difficulties meant that not all statutory work with
children was allocated to a qualified social worker. Inspectors
acknowledged recruitment as a national problem, but said that in
Essex it occasionally led to crisis management, with not all child
protection cases reviewed on time and some young people having a
frequent change of social worker.
Financial and supply problems meant there were delays in
obtaining assessments and services for older people. Inspectors
criticised the delay in deciding the fate of older people’s homes:
“Political considerations have outweighed responsible professional
opinion and financial management for the last two years in relation
to the homes.”
Mike Leadbetter, social services director and senior vice
president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, was
singled out for achievement in his seven years in post.
Recommendations made by inspectors had already been recognised
in the department’s position statement before the joint review and
was tackling them, says the report.
John Bolton, director of joint reviews, said: “In particular,
Essex has made good progress with family centres and in working
with the health service. I am confident that it will continue to
service more and more local people well if recommendations made in
the review are followed and consolidated.”