Inspectors pinpoint services that councils need to improve the most

Councils are not expecting to meet all their targets in key areas,
according to a mid-year report from the Social Services

While progress has been achieved in some services, the report
states that councils are not managing to reduce the waiting times
for care packages for older people at the rate they had hoped.

Councils now predict that an average of 29.2 per cent of people
will have waited for more than six weeks in 2002-3. Only two-thirds
of local authorities are forecasting “acceptable”

Jenny Stiles, deputy head of policy at Help the Aged said the
situation was farcical and “very depressing” for the individuals
and carers involved. She added that older people should not have to
wait for a care package at all.

“The assessments need to be quick and there needs to then be
instant access to the key elements of the package,” she said.

The report also finds that direct payments are only being used by
132 mental health service users and 326 carers across

Meanwhile, the report finds that the average number of children
excluded from school is expected to rise above anticipated levels
in all regions, with large increases in the Eastern, East Midlands,
and Yorkshire and Humberside regions.

More than half of councils identified problems in recruitment and
retention of staff in children’s services, although London
surprisingly identified some of the fewest difficulties.

Overall, vacancy levels were falling but not as quickly as planned,
and nearly two-thirds of councils reported significant difficulties
in recruiting and retaining approved social workers.

Owen Davies, senior national officer for local government at public
sector union Unison, said there was still a “huge amount” to

“Until they tackle the fundamental problems of pay and reward they
won’t make major inroads into the problem,” he said.

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