Older people, mental health sufferers and vulnerable children
are to be the key focus for social services under the department of
health priorities and planning framework for health and social
care, writes Katie Leason.
The guidance, ‘Improvement, Expansion and Reform: the next 3
years’, covers a three-year period instead of the usual 12 months,
highlighting targets in nine key delivery areas.
Speaking to Community Care, Nigel Crisp, chief
executive of the department of health, said there was no intention
to change the priorities over the next three years “unless
something unexpected happens”.
“This gives health and social care communities a much greater
degree of stability in terms of planning,” he said.
He added that just one local delivery plan will be required from
strategic health authorities with local authority input, compared
to the past situation where a number of different plans have been
required for the different aspects.
The targets include increasing by 40 per cent the number of
looked after children who are adopted by 2004-5, as well as
increasing to 95 per cent the proportion of looked after children
placed for adoption within 12 months of the decision being
John Beer, social services director for Southampton and member
of the executive council of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, said ideally children leaving care should achieve the
same level of education as the rest of the population.
“It’s right to strive for better standards, but you have
to be realistic regarding how long the children have been in care
and the population we are considering,” he said.
He was concerned that too much focus is being placed on adoption
as the optimum outcome, as it may not be the best result for some
The targets for older people aim to increase the number
supported intensively at home to 30 per cent of the total supported
by social services at home or in residential care, by March
In addition, by December 2004 all assessments of older people
must begin within 48 hours of first contact with social services
and be completed within 4 weeks; all social services must be
provided within four weeks; and equipment should be provided within
seven working days.