The government’s commitment to deliver “modern social
services” could be under threat, unless key obstacles to
improvement are removed, according to the annual report of the
chief inspector of the Social Services, writes Jonathan
Chief inspector Denise Platt highlights several themes in her
report into the “state of the nation in social services”, including
slow progress in service delivery, major recruitment and retention
issues and joint-working concerns between councils and the NHS.
“Budget pressures, lack of resources, the impact of increasing
demand and overspends are risks and barriers to progress,” says the
report. Despite clear evidence of commitment from all councils to
modernisation, progress is slow in many areas of service delivery,
Platt praises the work and ethos of social services departments,
but shows them to be in a delicately balanced position,
particularly in their relationship with the NHS. “There is some way
to go before the integrated services envisaged in the NHS Plan are
realised,” she says.
One example is older people’s services, where the NHS is
“not a source of commissioning and management expertise”. The
report says responsibility for social care services in the future
development of primary care trusts or care trusts will therefore
need to be “rooted in councils’ experiences”.
Recruitment and retention problems are also “hindering the
modernisation process”, the report says, highlighting that this in
turn impacts on the NHS.
The additional financial problems – with social services
departments “typically” starting the financial year with overspends
– could affect councils’ abilities to “keep pace” with
NHS partnership plans.
Planning overload is also obstructing “coherent service delivery
rather than improving it”, says the report. It adds that a lack of
co-ordination between NHS and council budgeting processes “impairs
joint planning and joint investment in pooled budgets”.
For the first time, the chief inspector has also focused on a
specific geographical area – London – because of her
concerns about the problems and services issues encountered by
councils there, particularly in children’s services.
London councils are twice as likely to have been on special
measures compared with other councils, says the report. It points
to the capital’s high, fluid and diverse population levels,
significant resource pressures and higher staffing and placement
“As a whole, London councils are not performing consistently or
coherently in delivering social care to an acceptable standard,”
says the report.
N DoH/SSI, Modern Social Services: a commitment to deliver
– The 10th Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Social
Services; available from www.doh.gov.uk/scg/ciann_10.htm