Inspectors find Walsall fails to serve people well

Walsall social services is failing to serve people well and has
poor prospects for improvement, a joint review has found,
writes David Brown.

The Audit Commission and Social Services Inspectorate blamed
frequent changes of policy direction, and a preoccupation with
immediate political concerns.

John Bolton, director of joint reviews, said: “Local people are
getting a raw deal.

“As well as changes on the front line there is a great need for
a more strategic and inclusive way forward,” he added.

The review found that there are too few preventive services for
children, while the quality and flexibility of community support
for adults needs improving.

“There are serious concerns about the overall availability of
services for many user groups, and the inflexible nature of
existing service models,” says the report.

It says that there is a reliance on traditional, and often
expensive, residential, nursing and other building-based care.

There are unacceptable variations in caseloads, systems and
practices between teams, particularly in children’s services
where a high number of cases had not been allocated to social

A lack of investment in staff and their skills had impacted on
the way services are delivered.

The authority has been told to promote a customer focus,
modernise services, set a clear financial strategy and develop
clear project plans.

Social services director Don Phillips, who had already announced
that he is taking redundancy, refused to accept all the
report’s conclusions.

“The report clearly challenges us to modernise services in the
borough and shift the balance of power towards service users and
carers,” he added.

He said social services had been a “political football”,
preventing modernization for a number of years.

A draft three-year improvement plan is going out for
consultation over the next six weeks. Tangible benefits are
anticipated within the first year.



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