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PROMISING PROSPECTS FOR SWANSEA SOCIAL SERVICES

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Swansea social services are serving some people well, and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an...
Swansea social services are serving some people well, and have promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report published today by the Audit Commission in Wales and the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales.

The report says that authority has made good progress in children's services, where there have been improvements in social work practice and in the overall quality of the services provided. Child protection services are diligently delivered and the council provides a wide range of responsive and imaginative family support services.

However there has been less consistent progress in adults' services. While there is a developing range of services which promote choice and independence across mental health and learning disabilities services, this is less the case for older people and adults with physical disabilities.

The report also reveals that there are significant numbers of people waiting for help from social services and that a better range of services is needed to help older people remain in their own homes. It adds that the authority needs to speed up the time taken to complete assessments on children and address the number of children without an allocated social worker.

The report praises the quality and commitment of the social services staff. It also says that the authority's good track record and its proven capacity to tackle difficulties is a cause for confidence in further improvement.

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

Specifically, the report says:

* Service users have a high regard for the services they receive

* Children's services are responsive and focus on the needs of the children and families who use them

* The wide range of family support services help limit the number of children who are placed in care

* Looked after children receive good residential and care management services

* The range of support services for older people needs to be extended to enable more people to live at home and have better access to community facilities

* Services for older people or for people with physical disabilities are not well targeted to needs and there are waits for assessments and for day and domiciliary care services

* Swansea has a major asset in the quality and commitment of its workforce.

* Social services has built a number of strong partnerships with other organisations and departments

The joint review identifies the following priorities for action:

* Manage demand and focus on getting the basics right. For example there needs to be improvements in screening and duty systems to help allocate cases more effectively

* Address service gaps and weaknesses, including work to improve educational outcomes and school attendance for looked after children

* Empower service users and their carers, for example by making access to services easier for users

* Promote independence and community support

* Strengthen commissioning to secure better value for money

* Develop a more business-like approach, by ensuring, for example, that service improvement plans contain stronger financial analysis * Improve services to black and ethnic minority communities

Sue Mead, review director, joint reviews, said:

'Swansea has made good progress in improving the quality and range of services it provides; particularly within children's services. There are a number of further improvements to be made, but the authority's overall strengths, combined with a committed workforce and good leadership, suggest that Swansea's social services has a promising future.'

Minister welcomes joint review of Social Services in Wales

Jane Hutt, minister for health and social services, has welcomed the publication today of a joint review of social services in Swansea. The review, carried out by a speci al team on behalf of the Social Services Inspectorate for Wales and the Audit Commission, judged Swansea to be serving some people well, with promising prospects for improvement.

Ms Hutt said: 'This report has many good things to say about Swansea social services - the standard of services, the quality and commitment of the staff and their managers, and the high regard service users have for the services they receive. The Council is well placed to tackle those areas that need improvement, to make sure all those who need services are equally well served.'

Chief social services inspector Graham Williams said: 'This is an encouraging report, which shows the vital role social services can play in supporting vulnerable people and the value of good professional leadership and good management. There is a good base for further improvement.'

A press release from the local authority follows:

Staff praised in new far reaching report on social services

Swansea social services staff are helping the city and county deliver an impressive range of quality services, according in a report published today.

The joint review of social services in Swansea also highlighted the service's potential for further success due to its quality and dedicated staff and managers and their track record for good improvement.

The report into the city and county's services is part of a rolling programme of reviews designed to assess the performance of authorities across England and Wales.

It found customers were generally appreciative and supportive of social services, with 73 per cent rating the help they received as either excellent or good.

The report says that the authority is making good progress in children's services.

It is responding well to high and urgent need, providing an effective range of family support, and has good access to family placements.

Its adoption services result in twice as many successful adoptions as the England and Wales average, and the perc entage of looked after children in foster care in Swansea is better than the national average.

The report found child protection services in Swansea are diligently delivered, thanks to good management, leadership, staff commitment and team work. As a result they offer sound prioritisation, quick and effective response in most cases, and a wide range of imaginative and flexible services.

In adult services Swansea was found to have some good quality services, with a high number of older people supported to live at home by services. The authority is beginning to develop a range of services to promote choice and independence such as the joint renablement service Crest.

The review found community mental health teams to be of a 'high standard' and a good range of services for drug and alcohol dependents.

Political support for social services is also praised with cabinet member John Davies singled out for his 'keen interest and commitment to social care'.

The review team also welcomed the council's emerging corporate leadership, strong departmental management and positive partnerships with the voluntary sector, health, police and probation services.

It found that the authority takes its social care responsibilities seriously, and social services is relatively well resourced with a good track record of budgetary control.

Investments have included developing technology to improve service quality and responsiveness.

The report has provided social services with a list of priorities for action to enable it to revise and further develop services.

A presentation of a draft action plan will be given to a meeting of the council today.

The action plan will indicate the way it has already got to grips with some issues and plans for further developments to tackle others.

The report says: 'Swansea has a major asset in the quality and commitment of its work force.

'The authority has a good level of awareness of its strengths and the areas where improv ement is needed. Encouraging investments are being made in some of the building blocks needed to secure further progress. This provides a sound base from which to sustain current successes and the authority's prospects for improvements are judged to be promising.'

Hugh Gardner, Swansea Council director of social services and housing, said: 'I very much welcome the report, particularly the recognition of what has been achieved, the professionalism of the staff and managers and their commitment to providing good services.

'Joint reviews are a demanding process and we have tried to use this constructively. We share their views about the priorities for the future. We are already on our way.'

John Davies, Swansea Council cabinet member for social services said: 'This is a positive report about the delivery of social services in Swansea. We recognise that staff are our major asset and thank them for their commitment to delivering the range of quality services we provide.

'The reportshould give people in Swansea confidence in the provision of services in the area and the professionalism of staff who deliver them.

'As an authority we are committed to addressing the challenges set out in the report and to seeing through any necessary changes.'

Lawrence Bailey, Swansea Council leader, said: ''This report puts Swansea among the top Welsh local authorities. It is a tribute to the commitment of staff in what can be a challenging but nonetheless vital service in the community.'

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