Headlines: November 19th, 2004

Social services departments of 150 local councils have increased their star rating by 8 per cent compared to last year. Some two thirds of councils have been awarded two or three stars for their performance. But the figures published by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, which has taken over from the Social Service Inspectorate, reveal a disturbing picture at the lower performance levels. A one star rating was awarded to 40 councils and 8 councils were zero rated.Children’s services are expected to improve in 81 per cent of councils and this figure rises to 91 percent for adult services. The problems lie with almost one fifth of councils where improvements are less certain. There is a big gap between the best performing and worst performing councils. Margaret Hodge, Minister for Children said: “Poorly performing services are letting down children and this cannot be allowed to continue. We have taken new powers of intervention through the Children Act which will allow us to consider all possible solutions to help turnaround councils where the star ratings show consistent underperformance. We will look to agree and tailor our approach to individual circumstances and, where it is shown to be necessary, take whatever action is needed to improve services for children.”

The star ratings draw on evidence from performance indicators, inspections, reviews and monitoring information for each council, and using a set of published standards as a framework to guide judgement. The assessment framework is divided into children and families, adults and older people and management and resources. The ratings are issued in conjunction with a performance report for each council, and give a rounded picture of each council’s performance in carrying out their social services functions.

The Improvement and Development Agency are working with many councils to help boost improvement and this work will be increased over the 12 months ahead. There will also be a drive to strengthen joint working with the partners in the NHS and the voluntary and private sectors to drive up the quality of social care provided to communities.