Cornwall’s Nigel Walker calls for swift learning disabilities changes

Cornwall Council’s lead adult services councillor has said he wants to see “substantial change” in the authority’s learning disabilities services within the next year.

Nigel Walker (pictured right) made the call after a Commission for Social Care Inspection inspection – whose initial findings were leaked to Community Care in February found the council was struggling to improve in learning disabilities, despite strong ambitions.

The county has been under the spotlight since a July 2006 inspection report uncovered abusive practice at learning disabilities services run by Cornwall Partnership NHS Trust, and criticised the council for “failing to adequately” co-ordinate adult protection.

In December 2007, a serious case review into the abuse and murder of Steven Hoskin, found agencies had missed over 40 opportunities to intervene in his life, though only a handful concerned adult social care.

CSCI rated Cornwall Council’s services as adequate with uncertain prospects for improvement, though this was initially challenged by the council, who said its prospects were “promising”.

CSCI said that the council had relatively few professionally qualified social care staff and a “lean management structure” relative to its improvement agenda. It found limited management oversight of practitioners’ casework and that 50% of people with severe learning disabilities were not known to the council.

The authority has produced a draft action plan to tackle the report’s recommendations, which will be agreed with CSCI (see box).

Walker said it wanted to train more social workers, though the creation of a specialist learning disability team had enabled it to focus resources more efficiently.

But he added: “People who have accepted a very low or abusive level of service for some years are not going to believe change until they see it.”

p11 10 April 08

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Mithran Samuel


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