Misleading assessment framework will damage image of social services

The comprehensive performance assessment framework published
last week “plays into the hands of the name and shame
culture” the Local Government Information Unit warned last
week, writes Katie Leason.

Criticising the retention of the “crude” overall
performance categories of excellent, good, fair, weak and poor, the
unit said these would “play into the hands of a media baying
for blood.”

The LGIU also criticised the government’s for persisting
with a system that penalised councils if just one major service
area was rated poor, despite overwhelming hostility from local
government against such a system.

David Spencer, policy officer at the LGIU, described the use of
overall judgements as “misleading to the public and damaging
to the council”.

“It’s just an impossible task to say that you are
going to be able to accurately categorise all councils using five
categories,” Spencer said. “It would be much better if
the whole process led to a description of how various services are

Warning of the knock on effect on recruitment and morale of a
council’s negative categorisation, Spencer added: “An
ambitious local government worker does not want to hang around in a
council that is labelled as failing”.

Although the Association of Directors of Social Services
welcomed the decision to include five categories instead of four,
chairperson of the ADSS standards and performance committee Tony
Hunter warned that pigeon holing the work of thousands of staff
into one category was a “blunt instrument”, but
inevitable in order to provide summary information.

Hunter added that the impact of the outcome of the first round
of the CPA process would depend on the tone adopted as the
categories were announced later this year.

“An overly negative tone will do nothing to promote
recruitment and retention or confidence locally,” he

Meanwhile, the Local Government Association welcomed the removal
of the double jeopardy rule, which would have led to an authority
having its overall category limited as a result of a poor
performance in either its adults or children’s social
services. Instead, an average score for the judgements of social
services as a whole will now be used in the final CPA calculation
(News, page 7, 24 October).

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