Headlines: November 19th, 2002

Awarding star ratings to social services departments of local councils is starting to drive up performance. Since the stars were first awarded in May this year there have been twelve improvements and six reductions. This has increased the number of three star councils by three and two star councils by two. At the bottom end, the number of no star councils has increased from 10 to 12.Three star councils are being given the freedom to spend grant money from the Performance Fund on their priorities for improvement and next year this freedom will be extended to all grants. They will also have less inspection, less form filling and more freedom to develop local public service agreements. Councils with zero, one and two stars will also receive a share of the performance fund, but they will only be allowed to use the money to develop innovative intermediate care services.

Councils with zero stars have to provide the Social Services Inspectorate in the Department for Health with a Performance Improvement Plan and their performance is monitored continually. Performance Action Teams from the Inspectorate are currently helping six of the no star councils to improve their performance.

The star rating of social services departments will form part of the overall assessment arrangements when the Comprehensive Performance Assessment of Councils is published on 12th December.