Councils improved their overall performance in adult social care for the seventh successive year in 2008-9 despite facing a tougher assessment process, the Care Quality Commission said today.
However, its annual performance assessment raised concerns about a lack of improvement in the promotion of choice and dignity for service users.
The APA found that 22% of authorities performed excellently and 73% well, up from 18% and 69% respectively in the 2007-8 assessment.
Big cut in authorities causing concern
Of 19 councils deemed to be a priority for improvement in 2007-8 – meaning they faced particular scrutiny from the regulator – 16 are no longer in this category having improved.
This year marked the first since the abolition of star ratings but councils were still assessed against the same seven outcomes for service users: improved health, quality of life, making a positive contribution, choice and control, freedom from discrimination, economic well-being and dignity and respect.
As last year, councils performed least well in providing choice and control and dignity and respect – despite personalisation and safeguarding being two key government priorities for adult social care.
Lack of improvement on choice and dignity
Twenty three per cent of councils performed adequately in delivering choice and control – the same proportion as last year – while two authorities (1%) were graded poor and 45 (30%) adequate for dignity and respect – similar proportions to last year.
On both outcomes there was a fall in the proportion of councils rated as excellent, from 11% to 8% on dignity and respect, and from 21% to 18% on choice and control.
The CQC said that the lack of improvement on choice and control reflected a toughening of the performance assessment in this area.
Quality ratings for providers also published
The APA was published alongside an assessment of the quality ratings achieved by social care providers, which showed that the proportion receiving an excellent or good rating rose from 69% to 77% from May 2008 to April 2009.
However, the CQC said councils needed to do more to purchase care from higher-quality providers. Forty per cent of councils purchased at least 80% of their residential services from care homes rated good or excellent, but CQC said a number of councils were commissioning a significant amount of care from homes rated poor or adequate.
CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said: “It’s good to see the steady improvements and this should be recognised. But she added: “There are also serious issues for councils to address in areas such as giving people more control over their care, treating people with dignity, and ensuring commissioning is as effective as possible. I want to see the regulator and councils working in tandem to drive poor quality care out of the market.”
LGA challenges regulator over providers
However, David Rogers, chair of the Local Government Association’s community well-being board, said: “No council ever chooses to deliberately place anyone in poor quality accommodation. The information routinely available to them on the standards of care homes is patchy. We expect the regulators to urgently address homes they know or find to be failing, in order to deliver the quality of accommodation that everyone expects to live in.”
He added that councils deserved “great credit” for their performance this year.