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Most people are served well by Ealing LBC social services but prospects for sustained service improvement are uncer...
Most people are served well by Ealing LBC social services but prospects for sustained service improvement are uncertain, according to a report published by the Audit Commission and Social Services Inspectorate.

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

Impressive improvement in children's services, helped by strong partnership working with other agencies, is praised in the report. There are some good services for vulnerable adults too- but, some people have to wait too long for help and the quality and range of services available is patchy. The authority has a history of substantial financial pressures, with large and persistent overspends in social services. The challenge facing the council is to ensure that services across the board are targeted, affordable and support people living independent lives.

Specifically the report says:

* Children's services have continued to sustain the improvements which characterised their successful recovery from being put on special measures in 1998.

* A strong focus on family support has contributed to a drop in the numbers of children looked after by the council. The quality of care for this group of children is good.

* Working relationships with health staff are positive and improving across most services and there is some good teamwork between housing and social services.

* Too many older people and other adults have to wait for an assessment. Once in the system many people are helped to live at home.

* Services for people with learning disabilities are imaginatively supporting independent living. Services for people with physical disabilities and people from minority ethnic communities are underdeveloped.

* The council needs to set and work to a sustainable budget for its social services that reflects the needs of its community and its affordable priorities. Strategies for service and financial planning ne ed to connect to each other in order to be deliverable within means.

The joint review team has highlighted priorities for action, including:

- Sustain the current focus and progress made in children's services.

- Develop better strategic and financial management across adults' services, balancing demand and resources.

- Get planning better organised to ensure that the right services are available, in the right quantity and at the right cost.

- Build on management systems to ensure consistency and quality of service to people.

- Continue to develop culturally sensitive services for people from ethnic minority communities.

- Sustain efforts to address shortages of appropriately skilled staff, particularly in services for children, older people and people with a mental health problem.

Rachel Ayling, assistant review director, Joint Reviews said:

'Ealing is to be praised for the work it has done so far, in improving its social services. The council has concentrated in recent years on its children's services, with considerable success. It now needs to bring its weaker services up to the standard of its best. This report highlights some risks ahead. Improvements to the council's financial and service planning are critical to success.'

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