'Managing by prioritisation' is the buzz phrase when it comes to
assessments. In ordinary language, that means waiting lists. People
with less urgent needs can expect to wait longer for their needs to
be assessed, whether it be for aids and adaptations or for
community care packages.
Sefton was heavily criticised by the SSI and Audit Commission
joint review in October 1997 for a whole host of shortcomings -
including its long waiting lists for people who needed assessments
as a matter of priority.
Director Steve Wilds, who has taken over since the crisis, says
the authority no longer has waiting lists for assessments. But it
took some very careful management to achieve that. 'The financial
position of the authority was very tight - and still is,' he says.
'There was a whole series of ways the authority was trying to
balance the books. One was controlling recruitment of staff.'
That, rather than a deliberate decision to force needy people to
wait for assessments, was the main reason for Sefton's problem, he
argues. Only after a thorough review of spending across the whole
council did the authority manage to find an extra £1 million
to recruit more staff. Whereas six months ago it had 150 people
waiting in hospital for assessments, it now only has a backlog of
the existing week's work.
'But if you haven't got the money, then you haven't got the
money,' Wilds says, arguing that Sefton, with the retirement area
of Southport, has hit crisis point sooner than most other
departments. 'Others will be getting there very, very quickly,' he