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FEATURES - SOCIAL SERVICE

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when reading an article about Hackney LBC most people expect familiar stories of struggle and failure. But times ar...
when reading an article about Hackney LBC most people expect familiar stories of struggle and failure. But times are changing. Hackney social services has had a joint Social Services Inspectorate/Audit Commission review which ranks the council among the better social services departments in the country - a considerable achievement.

Although there is still plenty of work to be done, the department has gone from failing to promising. In the past two years the council's focus has been to rebuild the department and make it one which meets the needs of vulnerable people locally.

In 1999 Hackney was failing children and young people. These services had been placed under ministerial directions after a number of critical reports saying the council was very poor and failing to meet statutory duties. Following an improved inspection report in March 2001, directions were removed and replaced by special measures, which were lifted in May 2002.

There is no doubt that critical inspection acted as a spur to bring politicians together to rebuild the department. A new management team worked in partnership with lead councillors to develop a radical improvement plan. With a directly elected mayor and a new cabinet in post that commitment is stronger than ever.

For the first time in years Hackney has a balanced budget. The council has worked hard to establish sound financial management to deal with the problems of the past. This is now paying off and money can be spent on initiatives that will really make a difference to Hackney people. Social services is a council priority. We are increasing expenditure in areas such as home care, lunch clubs for the elderly and sheltered housing.

There is real commitment and energy among staff to ensure departments meet the needs of Hackney's diverse population. Last July the department gained Investors In People accreditation - recognition of the good communication within social services.

Staff are positive about the improvement and direction of the council. Ther e is also a strong commitment to working here where levels of deprivation and diversity are high. The council's diverse workforce is also an asset in providing services and in creating a stimulating working environment.

Partnership working in the council has been successful and it works very closely with the NHS. This has allowed it to meet the needs of patients in a modern and effective way and to tackle serious issues such as bed blocking.

Hackney social services has rightly received plenty of criticism in the past but the service has turned itself around and users can see the difference. The aim is now to build on what has already been achieved and attain excellence in all areas of the council.

Frances Pearson (lab)

Cabinet member, social care and health,

Hackney LBC

www.lgcnet.com/policyresearch

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