Welsh government looks again at plans

The Welsh government is being forced to reconsider how it will
inspect social services departments in Wales when the current
programme of joint reviews comes to an end later this year.

Ministers have proposed that their own social services inspectorate
should play a far larger role in inspections, which are currently
carried out jointly with the Audit Commission.

But last week, the proposals came under such heavy fire from
members of all four parties in the national assembly that health
and social services minister Jane Hutt has been forced to

Hutt was told by assembly members that the inspectorate would not
be sufficiently objective for the work to be done. They warned that
its inspectors would “cosy up” too much to the councils they were
inspecting because they were already in touch with them on a
week-by-week basis. Although Hutt and chief inspector Graham
Williams both denied these claims, the health committee won major

The proposals are currently out to consultation, and extra time has
been granted for comments to be sent in. These comments will be
forwarded for close examination to the new health committee when it
meets after the assembly elections on 1 May.

Assembly members were worried about the lesser role proposed for
the Audit Commission in the proposals. The commission’s
considerable presence in the present inspection teams was a
guarantee of quality, they said.

David Melding, Conservative health spokesman, called for the
establishment of an independent agency akin to the Schools

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