Slow progress could jeopardise reforms

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 Inspectorate, published this week.

Chief inspector Denise Platt highlights several themes in her
“state of the nation” report into social services, including slow
progress in service delivery, 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

Despite clear evidence of commitment from all councils to
modernisation, progress is slow in many areas, it adds.

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 development of
primary care trusts or care trusts will need to be “rooted in
councils’ experiences”.

The financial problems – with social services departments
“typically” starting the financial year with overspends – could
also affect councils’ abilities to “keep pace” with NHS partnership

The report adds that a lack of co-ordination between NHS and
council budgeting processes “impairs joint planning and joint
investment in pooled budgets”.

DoH and SSI, Modern Social Services: a Commitment to Deliver
– The 10th Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Social

Social services in London

For the first time, the chief inspector has focused on a
specific geographical area – London – because of her concerns about
the problems and service 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 its higher staffing and
placement costs.

“As a whole, London councils are not performing consistently or
coherently in delivering social care to an acceptable standard,”
says the report, before recommending further collaboration between
councils and senior managers.

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