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Services provided by Kettering BC to promote social inclusion are fair and have promising prospects for improvement...
Services provided by Kettering BC to promote social inclusion are fair and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

The inspection team gave the services one star because, although the council is working hard to make its services more accessible and is strengthening the way in which it works with partners to promote social inclusion, its poor performance in processing benefits may be undermining its aims and contributing to social exclusion.

Andy Walford, Director, Central Region, said:

'Kettering BC is changing the way in which it works to deliver on social inclusion. There are already examples of projects which are making a difference locally. Its plans promise real improvements and there is a strong commitment to deliver them. For the future the council needs to measure the impact of its work better and ensure that basic services such as benefits administration are delivered in a way that fully supports social inclusion.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

* a commitment to promoting social inclusion

* the council has asked customers about their needs and priorities and is working in partnership with others to address them

* the council is changing the way it works so that it can deliver the right services, at the right time and in the right place

However, inspectors also found weaknesses:

* the council is slow at processing claims for the benefits it administers - the benefits service is to be reviewed later this year

* there is no systematic approach to managing information and so it is difficult for the organisation to learn from its own experiences and mistakes

To help the service improve, inspectors made a number of recommendations, including:

* Develop effective knowledge management systems to ensure that information is effectively captured, recorded and shared across the organisation

* Make sure that services meet needs of 'hard to reach' groups, developing strategies to engage with them

* Inform customers about the standards they can expect from the council and ensure that these standards are consistent across the council

* Encourage wider citizen participation in shaping services

Kettering council carried out a best value review of social inclusion in 2001/2 to assess how well it was delivering its social inclusion strategy, and to create an action plan to improve its social inclusion work. It covered 8 areas of activity - economic and community development, community leisure, community safety, community policy and housing client, community arts, SRB projects, Kettering Borough Training and concessionary fares administration. The total budget for these services is£1.4m, which represents 17 per cent of the council's net budget.

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