Cornwall learning disabilities services struggling to improve

Cornwall article p 5 (28 Feb issue)Cornwall Council is still failing to adequately protect adults with learning disabilities following two high-profile abuse cases in the county, an inspection report leaked to Community Care reveals.

Key findings in the Commission for Social Care Inspection report on services for people with learning disabilities show that while the council gave “high priority” to strengthening adult safeguarding, there were areas of “weak practice”.

The report – an initial analysis of an inspection in December 2007 – broadly criticised Cornwall’s slow progress in modernising services for people with learning disabilities around the Valuing People agenda, despite “high aspirations to deliver improvements”. It said strategies to improve choice and control for people with learning disabilities were “still relatively under-developed” and a relatively high number of people still lived at home with family carers compared to other councils.

Cornwall hit the headlines in July 2006, when a joint CSCI and Healthcare Commission investigation found widespread abuse of people with learning disabilities in services run by Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust. It also criticised Cornwall Council for “failing to adequately co-ordinate inter-agency [adult protection] arrangements” in accordance with government guidance.

The December 2007 inspection found some case files showed staff needed to improve understanding of adult safeguarding thresholds and risk, and these problems were “exacerbated” by the “limited capacity” of frontline teams that dealt with high caseloads.

The inspection took place just one month after two reviews into the abuse and murder of Steven Hoskin in July 2006 found agencies including Cornwall Council had missed more than 40 opportunities to protect him. Hoskins had learning disabilities and was for a time receiving care from adult social services.

The independent review into Hoskin’s case by consultant Ray Jones cited 2006-7 figures showing Cornwall had one of the lowest spends on learning disability services in the country, though it pointed out that the council last year allocated an extra £4.2m for learning disability services.

Article p5 28 Feb issueHowever, the leaked CSCI report found additional resources, including from Cornwall Primary Care Trust, “had yet to benefit the wider community” of service users.

Speaking to Community Care following Hoskin’s case reviews in December last year, director of adult social care Carol Tozer said the CSCI’s star ratings report for 2007 showed Cornwall had “made considerable improvement” in safeguarding.

“A lot of resources are going into adult protection – up to £600,000 per annum. Since the investigation into abuse of people with learning disabilities in Cornwall last year, 3,091 staff have received adult protection training across all services,” she said.

Both Cornwall Council and the CSCI this week declined to comment on the leaked report. The findings will be incorporated into a final report and could be modified ahead of publication, expected in April.

Contact the author

Maria Ahmed

This article appeared in the 28 February issue under the headline “Cornwall services struggle to improve”



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