Headlines: June 5th, 2002

In the same way as ‘star ratings’ have provided a common measure for hospitals, social service departments across England have now been subject to hotel-style performance measures.The social services star system avoids loading councils with yet another layer of inspection by re-using evidence from published Performance Indicators, inspection, Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) / Audit Commission Joint Reviews, review of plans and in year performance information from both the SSI and the external auditors for each council.

The ratings give a rounded picture of each council’s performance in carrying out their social services functions, including separate judgements for adult’s and children’s services. Each council also receives a Performance Letter, giving details about strengths and areas for improvement. It is intended these be made public on the Department of Health website.

The first eight councils to receive three stars will be gain greater freedom and flexibility. They will also have fewer inspections and monitoring by the Social Services Inspectorate.

Those ten councils with zero stars could face a visit from a Department of Health Performance Action Team to work on improvement.

The Government says the results show that excellence does exist in social services in England – but is only available to some people. The goal will be to minimise variation.

The star ratings do demonstrate that it is possible to make significant improvements in a relatively short space of time. Newcastle upon Tyne City Council is one of eight councils to have been awarded with the maximum three stars after being removed from ‘special measures’ just two years ago.

Three star councils: Bexley, Cornwall, Kensington & Chelsea, Leicestershire, Newcastle upon Tyne, Sunderland, Wandsworth and Westminster.

Zero star councils: Birmingham , Bromley, Coventry, East Sussex, Haringey, Merton, North East Lincolnshire, Swindon, Wakefield and Walsall.

Full list: www.doh.gov.uk/pssrating