Headlines: March 26th, 2004

A report into the quality of social care services in England expresses concern at the variation in performance across the country and says there is more work to be done before all services are of the highest quality. “All Our Lives” has been produced by the Social Services Inspectorate, the Joint Reviews team and the National Care Standards Commission.The report, which looks at performance and quality in 2002 -3, provides an overview of how well social care services respond to the needs of and promote the rights of the people who use them. It indicates that most services are meeting the basic standards expected by users and the Government but it is concerned about variations in quality. The report’s publication comes immediately before the creation of a new regulator, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, which will see the three bodies integrating their roles.

The report finds the majority of care homes were providing acceptable standards of care and that there have been significant improvements in services for children and young people and encouraging signs that family support services are increasing. Older people requiring greater levels of support are also benefiting from community services and that successful work by local social care and health partners has ensured an overall reduction in the number of unnecessary delays in people being discharged from hospital.

Looking to the future, the report emphasises the need for good partnership working between agencies at local level to deliver better outcomes both for children and adults. It says that for children and families more work is needed to ensure those who need help are identified at the right stage, that information is properly shared between agencies, and that a more coordinated range of services is developed.

It also cites ongoing concerns about delays in responding to requests for help from adults with many councils needing to speed up their processes and reduce their waiting lists. More needs to be done, too, to ensure people are aware of their rights to receive a ‘direct payment’ to enable them to purchase their own care if they choose.

The Acting Chief Inspector of the SSI, Averil Nottage said the prime concern had always been about how well the needs and wishes of people who use social care services were being met. The views of service users were central to the report and were crucial to achieving continued improvements across social care.