Ten social services departments given zero stars and four face intervention

Main points:

– 10 councils given zero rating and four face

– 82 given one star and 50 two stars

– only eight awarded three stars.

Ten social services departments were awarded zero stars in the
first round of the new performance rating system, writes Lauren
Revans and Katie Leason.

Performance action teams are to be sent into four of the
councils awarded a zero star rating while all 10 must meet with the
chief inspector of social services to agree a performance
improvement plan. Teams are to be sent into Walsall, Coventry,
Birmingham and North East Lincolnshire.

At least two of the councils, which are all now on special
measures, have already lost their directors of social services –
Don Phillips at Walsall and Jeremy Ambache at Bromley in Kent.

Meanwhile, Hackney, Lambeth, Lancashire, Newham, Peterborough
and Sheffield social services departments have been removed from
special measures after being awarded one-star ratings.

A further 76 social services departments were also awarded one
star, while 50 were awarded two stars.

Only eight social services departments were awarded the top
three-star rating, and can look forward to more freedoms, including
automatic access to their share of the social services performance
fund and less restrictions in spending grants. They will be able to
spend their share of the £50 million performance fund on any
area of social services, whereas councils with zero, one and two
stars must use the money for intermediate care.

The number and frequency of inspections will also be reduced for
the top performers. An inspection of children’s services will be
carried out if there has not been one in the last four years. But
any other inspections will only be carried out at the council’s
request or with their agreement

Health minister Jacqui Smith said that “immediate action” will
be taken to start improving performance in the zero rated councils,
with Denise Platt meeting with the authorities and reporting back
to ministers on any necessary further action

“Where we don’t believe they have sufficient capacity to turn
themselves around we will send in performance action teams to
support. I expect to see improvements by November,” she said.

The star ratings will be refreshed in the autumn before they are
fed into the overall council star ratings – the comprehensive
performance assessment – but from next year the social services
star ratings will only be published in the autumn.


Social services directors have given a cautious welcome to the
star ratings. “We strongly believe in our accountability to the
public,” said Michael Leadbetter, president of the Association of
Directors of Social Services.

But he added that the star rating judgement is only the
beginning. “The purpose of the information, as well as providing a
guide for the public, must also be to help us improve.”

The star ratings should be treated carefully, he added. “It must
never be forgotten how much excellence is to be found in all of our
social services departments, how much hard work and dedicated
service is carried out every day,” he said. Dedication persists “no
matter how many stars the organisation is awarded”, he added.

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