National standards for `failing' social services

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The Independent Online
NATIONAL standards and priorities for social services will form part of a radical overhaul of social care, according to government plans leaked yesterday.

A draft copy of the White Paper to be published in November said social services were "seriously failing to provide the support that people should expect", particularly in the care of the most vulnerable in society. Lack of co-ordination, inconsistency between authorities and inefficiencies mean many authorities' performances left "a lot to be desired".

In the draft, which was leaked to the BBC, it says that nine new independent regional authorities would regulate nursing and residential care for children and adults across the country as well as the agencies that deliver care to people's homes. The boards will include representatives of those who use and provide the services as well as local authorities and health authorities.

New national standards will include guidance on what councils should charge for services such as home help - one report found some people paid only 4 per cent of a council's spending on the service, while users in other areas paid 28 per cent - and there would be reforms of inspection arrangements.

A General Social Care Council will regulate training of the 1 million workers in social care and set up registers of professional social workers and children's home staff. This week a highly critical report by the Social Services Inspectorate into children's care found a "sorry picture" of lax staff vetting, failure to run police checks on new staff and no systematic way of seeing staff followed rules.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said yesterday that the Government was proposing tougher regulation of social care, but the exact details would be published in due course.

Social services leaders welcomed the Government's moves towards national standards but denied that social work had failed.

Roy Taylor, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, said the reported proposals showed the Government wanted to raise standards. He conceded that things had gone wrong in some cases. "But we've also made a considerable success of community care reforms. We've made a success of many of the new pieces of legislation, sometimes without any additional resources. Social services are struggling, but it would be wrong to characterise them as having failed," he said.