Councils fall short in response to adult abuse allegations

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Councils are failing to respond adequately to allegations of abuse of vulnerable adults, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) warned today in its annual report.

The quality of response to allegations was “often compromised” by a failure to deliver adequate risk assessments and risk management plans, the regulator said in its annual review of services for 2009-10.

It said there was not a consistent understanding of the point at which adult protection services should be provided. Specific concerns were raised about abuse in registered services, particularly care homes, with more needed to be done to raise awareness of what constitutes abuse and to challenge poor practice, among care home staff and statutory agencies.

Evidence suggested that the most common outcome of any referral from a care setting was “inconclusive” and that abuse often had roots in a “more pervasive culture of poor quality of care”.

CSSIW found that the councils that did best on adult protection had either specialist teams or practitioners, such as adult protection co-ordinators, or benefited from experienced social workers in care management teams. It called for good practice to be shared more widely.

The inspectorate was more positive about services to safeguard children, saying agencies worked effectively together to respond to initial concerns and appropriate action was taken to protect children.

However, it raised concerns about ongoing support for children at risk, saying the proportion of children re-referred to child protection services within a 12-month period had risen by 27% to 32%, the highest level for four years. It suggested this could indicate problems in the amount and quality of information gathered, which could lead to cases being closed too soon.

Councils also reported difficulties in managing increasing numbers of referrals and rising numbers of court proceedings, and with having high numbers of inexperienced social workers.

The CSSIW also raised concerns about rising numbers of looked-after children in Wales. From 1997-2010, the proportion of children under 18 who were looked after rose from 45 to 82 per 10,000, compared with an increase from 45 to 55 per 10,000 population in England.

“There is a need to understand why the pattern is different between countries and consider the implications for future policies and practice development,” the report said. “If current trends continue, it will raise serious questions about the sustainability of services as they are currently configured and delivered.”

The inspectorate promised to look at this issue during the next year.  

Overall, CSSIW said there was continuing evidence of improvement across services, but said there was a continued need to tackle variations in performance across the country, for instance in the commissioning of adult social care.

The Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru welcomed the report and its acknowledgement that services have improved and said it was committed to working with the Welsh Local Government Association to tackle inconsistencies in performance and to share good practice.

Responding to rising pressures in child protection, ADSS Cymru president Bruce McLernon said: “Investment in preventative services must continue to be a priority in the coming years as we seek to avoid spiralling pressures on services. Local authorities and the Welsh government have invested considerably in children’s services over the last few years and this must continue to ensure our most vulnerable children continue to be adequately protected.”

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