Headlines: August 1st, 1997

Sir Herbert Laming, Chief Inspector of Social Services, calls for stronger management in his annual report. Social Services departments provide for children and old people and for those of all ages who are disabled in some way. The cost of services has risen from £4b in 1991/92 to almost £8b in 1996/97.The issues for social services managers is how to improve quality of service when legislation has brought additional responsibilities and the population is ageing and making greater demands.

The report highlights weaknesses that need to be addressed including:

  • management failure to set clear objectives
  • staff uncertain about why they are intervening
  • poor and incomplete case records
  • projecting a poor image through cases that went wrong and failing to publicise success where skill and committed social care has been displayed.

The way forward lies in recognising the changes that are taking place and responding to them. Sir Herbert said: “The social care needs of users and carers of today – and tomorrow – cannot be met by the same range of services that we had yesterday. The degree and speed of change in social care are very great.”

There is increasing recognition that the needs of people often span a number of public services and that a partnership approach will produce the best overall effect at the lowest cost. For example a poorly cared for young person may have been excluded from school and be facing a drugs charge. A concerted response from all agencies is most likely to produce the best result.