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Most people are served well by social services in Surrey and prospects for improvement are promising, according to ...
Most people are served well by social services in Surrey and prospects for improvement are promising, according to a report published today by the Audit Commission and Social Services Inspectorate.

The council has made the improvement of social care its priority and has increased resources allocated to this area. A strong commitment to user and carer participation provides a sound basis for providing services for vulnerable people. Requests for help receive a timely response.

However, the review found that services for adults are markedly better than those for children.

For adults there are some good modernised services being put in place, including some that are user led. There is effective work with health and district and borough councils and an increasing range of joint services. The authority's medium term strategy is beginning to improve the availability of home care and residential care in a difficult market situation.

For children there are good services for adoption and children's homes are of good quality, but family support is underdeveloped. Too many children looked after are placed outside the county which presents additional difficulties for them and their families, as well as increased costs for the authority. The outcomes for children looked after and care leavers require improvement.

The report is part of a rolling programme of reviews to assess the performance of individual social service authorities across England and Wales.

Specifically the report says:

There are some good services for all user groups and vulnerable children and adults are protected;

Access to services is good, and there are no significant delays for assessment, services or for reviews;

Children's homes are of good quality, there is an effective adoption service and the Youth Offending Team works well;

Children's assessments need to be completed more quickly;

Services to support families with children should be refocused so that they are effectiv e in helping children stay with their families;

More people are benefiting from the use of Direct Payments, which enable them to manage their own services;

There are some excellent services for older people that promote independence, and prevent hospital admission and enable discharge from hospital;

Partnership with health has been a priority and there has been effective work across the adults sector including in relation to hospital discharge.

There has been effective work with borough and district councils to improve housing options; and

Children's services have been co-located with education. This has the potential to improve the education of children in need, including children looked after.

Following its joint review, the next challenge for the authority is to put in place a programme of continuous improvement that will lead to better services for users. The joint review team has highlighted several priorities for action. They include:

improving the experience and outcomes for children;

strengthening the planning and implementation of service changes for children;

making the council's policy of devolving responsibility locally and to frontline teams a reality to support continuous service improvement for children; and

continuing to improve the experience of adult service users.

Anne Bretherton, assistant review director, Joint Reviews, said:

'Surrey has made social care a priority and it has increased resources to ensure that services are improved. Although there are a few areas requiring attention, in particular services for children looked after, the council is providing good social care services to most local people and there are promising prospects for improvement.'

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