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People in Coventry are poorly served by their social services according to a report published jointly by the Audit ...
People in Coventry are poorly served by their social services according to a report published jointly by the Audit Commission and the Social Services Inspectorate today.

The report findings include:

Serious problems with childcare: in January 1998, 56 children on the child protection register did not have an allocated social worker; and in August 1997, 30 per cent of statutory reviews for children were overdue;

Council-run home care services cost an average of 50 per cent more per hour than services from the independent sector. There is the opportunity, therefore, for significant savings.

Only nine per cent of people over 75 receive help to live in their own homes. This is the lowest among similar authorities.

Delays in providing some services - particularly those to support children and families.

The report forms part of a rolling programme of reviews of individual social services departments in England. In order to improve how services are planned, managed and delivered to the people of Coventry the report identifies several key issues that the council needs to focus on. They include:

- Concentrate on ensuring that basic services are safe and protect the vulnerable;

- Address delays in delivering services by clarifying decision-making and overall management practice;

- Improve equity and choice of care for individuals, to ensure their needs are met and standards of care are consistent;

- Achieve more from resources by examining how the independent sector could deliver savings particularly in residential care and assessing staff productivity;

- Ensure that strategic corporate planning processes consider the effect of policy changes so that priorities are more effectively understood and individual needs are considered.

- Reduce existing confusion over responsibilities and accountabilities by making these explicit when decisions are made on services and allocating resources.

Coventry social services serve a population of 302,500 people, which includes a growing number of older people. The council spends less on social services than other similar authorities. In 1997/98 the total spend was expected to be£62m - 47 per cent of which to be spent on elderly people. This represents£178 per head of population and is 22 per cent above the standard spending assessment.

Andrew Foster, controller of the Audit Commission commented:

'While there is a commitment to innovation and quality in Coventry, the authority should ensure that this does not undermine its ability to deliver essential services and protect the most vulnerable people in its care.

'If the authority is to improve its performance and better serve the people of Coventry, it will need to bring more clarity and rigour to the way it shapes and manages the delivery of services to the community.'

Averil Nottage, deputy chief inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate commented:

'The first priority for any social services department must be to provide safe, secure and efficient basic services. The Joint Review report, together with an inspection of child protection services, show that Coventry has lost sight of this in recent years.

'Decisions that Coventry have made about how they resource and manage their social services department have left some vulnerable people at risk. It is essential that priority is now given to achieving consistent and appropriate protection and support to all vulnerable children and adults.'

- Coventry: A report of the Review of Social Services in Coventry Council (ISBN 1862401136) is available from Audit Commission publications on freephone 0800 5020 30 priced£15

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