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The home support service provided by Surrey Heath BC is good and has promising prospects for improvement, according...
The home support service provided by Surrey Heath BC is good and has promising prospects for improvement, according to an independent report released today by the Audit Commission.

An inspection team gave the service two stars* because both customer satisfaction and customer care are high. Some of the services are well advertised but there was a waiting list of people needing the meals on wheels service.

Jacqueline Canham, lead housing inspector, said:

'The council carried out an effective best value review which identified shortcomings in the service and addressed them. The council needs to set itself some more challenging targets in this area to maintain the services at their current level. We were particularly impressed by the council's continuing use of its best value review group, with external partners, to continue to monitor and review the planned improvements.'

The inspection report highlights a number of key strengths:

- Customer satisfaction with all the services is high and customer care for all the services is positive.The meals on wheels service is able to respond to an individual's diet and taste.

- Meals on wheels and the community alarms services are well advertised locally.

- The private sector housing service provides an innovative way of improving older peoples' housing in the borough.

However, inspectors also found some weaknesses:

- While the leaflets for meals on wheels and community alarms were well distributed those for private sector housing were not.

- There is a waiting list of people needing the meals on wheels service.

- There are delays getting access to an occupational therapist to assess people's needs for the services.

To help the service improve, inspectors made the following recommendations:

- The community services and environmental health staff need to be involved in the council's work on a new housing needs survey so that the needs of older people and people with special needs can be better identified. This will help the council with the forward planning of these services.

- Grants letters need be revised and made more customer friendly.

- The council needs to set improving targets for the services and monitor performance against those targets.

The services under inspection consisted of meals on wheels, community alarm service, home safety advice and services to help people maintain, improve their homes, to create disabled access to their homes, and make their homes energy efficient. All the services are run by the council itself although the meals on wheels are produced by a private company and the community alarms link to an alarm centre run by another council.

The 2001/02 budget for the service is£587,600. This includes the home safety service which is currently paid for by a grant from Surrey CC of£5,950 per year. This grant pays for ten hours of staff time which is used to carry out home safety checks. There are the full time equivalent of eight and a half staff involved in delivering the services.

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