Children’s social services lag behind adult care

Councils are struggling to improve children’s social care services at the same rate as adult services, the latest annual performance ratings reveal.

The star ratings for England’s 150 councils published this week show that, despite performance on children’s and adults’ services being similar in 2002, 77% of councils now serve most adults well compared to just 63% achieving this level for children.

Although 35 councils improved their performance in children’s services between 2004 and 2005, standards in 13 councils fell over the same period. Two councils – Plymouth and Sandwell – are singled out as failing to serve children well at all. No councils are judged to be serving no adults well.

Prospects for improvement in children’s services are either excellent or promising in almost 90% of councils, with scope for improvement around partnership working looking particularly strong. However, the capacity to improve in 15 councils remains uncertain and in one – the Isles of Scilly – is poor. Issues around staff recruitment and retention in particular could hinder progress.

Announcing the 2005 star ratings, the Commission for Social Care Inspection warned that improvements in processes around children’s services were not always translating into improved outcomes for children.

In particular, it highlighted the need for more progress in relation to the care of looked-after children, including improvements in the stability of their placements and levels of educational achievement and a reduction in offending rates.

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