Headlines: November 27th, 2003

A new report from the Social Services Inspectorate into local councils’ provision of services for older people, highlights a cultural shift in social care towards a focus on promoting independence and offering people choice and empowerment.The report,’Improving Older People’s Services – An Overview of Performance’, assesses the progress made by councils in modernising and providing good quality social services for older people.

It finds a number of improvements in the last year including improved integrated strategic planning between health and social care services and the beginnings of the fundamental cultural shift.

But the report also shows services often fall short of the quality expected by users and carers. It says there is still much to do particularly in services for older people with mental health difficulties and in culturally sensitive services. The report says, though, that many local councils are aware of shortcomings and are making plans for improvements.

The report says inspections confirmed that many councils were demonstrating good systems to safeguard vulnerable older people from abuse and poor treatment and improved and clearer charging arrangements, often helpfully combined with benefits advice. Inspection and performance information showed that actual experience often revealed poor provision for minority groups, little support or encouragement to users for direct payments and serious gaps in specialist services for older people with dementia, functional mental illness and sensory impairments.

The Acting Chief Inspector of the SSI, Averil Nottage, said the report reinforced the positive messages of sustained progress. There was room for improvement, but there was also much to be praised in the hard work and dedication of social services staff.

The report is available on the Department of Health website at www.doh.gov.uk/ssi/olderpeople03.htm