Councils told to 'hide' care services shortfall

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The Independent Online
THE Department of Health has advised social services directors to keep secret the services they lack after community care comes into force next month.

In a letter, an official says that they should not give people a list of nursing and community care services which they ideally need, in case the council is sued for maladministration if it cannot afford to provide the service.

Under the Community Care Act, councils have a duty to assess the needs of mentally ill, disabled, elderly and vulnerable people who require various social services in the community. Many social services chiefs have written to the department expressing fears they might place themselves at risk by failing to meet needs they had identified to the client, or if they were in default of services they are legally obliged to provide.

On 1 March, David Lambert, assistant chief inspector at the department, wrote to several directors suggesting two 'compromise options'. The local authority (LA) could record the client's 'unmet choice' instead of unmet need. 'The recording of that choice does not carry any validation by the LA of any unmet need,' the letter said. Second, to help plan for future services, taking into account failures to provide services, the council could have a 'service deficiency/improvement form, for internal use only . . . (for an assessor) to speculate, on the basis of identified needs, what services might have been appropriate, without it carrying the weight of departmental validation of a service deficiency.'