Merthyr faces uncertain future

Merthyr Tydfil Council’s social services serve some people
well, but have uncertain prospects for improvement, according to a
joint review report by the Audit Commission and Social Services
Inspectorate, writes Jonathan Pearce.

Since becoming a unitary authority in 1996, the council has made
significant progress and improvement, but the report highlights
concerns about both children’s and adult services.

The council is not consistently applying an assessment framework
to guide decision-making and the management of risk in respect of
vulnerable children, says the report. In addition, the eligibility
criteria are not yet fully implemented, leaving the public and
potential referrers to the service unclear about the range of needs
and services available.

In adult services the assessment and care management process is
“basically sound”, according to the review, but the standard of
care plan reviews need to be improved. The report also finds key
gaps in mental health, substance misuse and disability services,
while there is a need to develop strategic partnerships with other
agencies to create more tailored services for adults and older
people with disabilities.

On a more positive note, the report points to “real strengths in
some crucial areas”, including the quality of multi-disciplinary
working, efficient decision-making, and an “enabling” and
user-focused staff culture.

Merthyr Tydfil’s prospects could only be rated as
uncertain because the council does not benefit from the economies
of scale found in larger authorities, adds the report. However, the
council still needs systems to ensure consistent and effective
delivery, and improvement, of services. “Good leadership and a
strong sense of direction from the top” is needed to ensure
improvements, concludes the report, as well as clearer strategies
for arranging and organising services jointly with others.

Sue Mead, Audit Commission/SSI assistant director of joint
reviews, said: “The council needs to stop and think about the
service it provides now and where it wants to be in the future. It
needs a longer term view and new ways of approaching change.

“It can, however, exploit the strengths it clearly has, the most
important one of which is some good staff and teams,” she said.




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