3 December 2009

Southwark adult social service quality plummets

The quality of social care provided by Southwark Council has fallen from ‘excellent’ to ‘adequate’ in just a year, according to an inspection report published by Care Quality Commission yesterday. The report also said that the council’s prospects for improvement were ‘uncertain’. This is awful - looking after vulnerable and older people is something that should be top of the council's priority list, regardless of which political party is in charge.

Southwark received an ‘excellent’ rating for social care services from the CQC’s predecessor the Commission for Social Care Inspection in 2007/08. Subsequently the Lib Dem/Tory executive has forced through a series of changes to the service - withdrawing social care for those with moderate needs (around 900 people), hiking meals on wheels prices up by almost 50% and scrapping on-site wardens for sheltered accommodation. Presumably these policies have contributed to this terrible drop in quality.

Labour opposed these changes as we were very concerned that they would damage the quality of support for the most vulnerable people in our community. However, time and again our concerns were ignored.

With the cold weather here, I find some of the following comments from the report really worrying. This isn't anyway to treat our elderly and vulnerable:

“capacity to improve in Southwark was uncertain”
“I’ve tried the call centre – have you? I won’t again"
“safeguarding of adults in Southwark was adequate”
“Out of hours services appeared increasingly stretched”
“One older person we met was referred for review after over two years without one”
“Practical plans were not yet in place to offer the prospect of sustainable delivery of the council’s vision and strategy”

Even more worrying - the Lib Dem leadership chose to put the council Chief Executive up for media interviews this morning. The buck stops with our elected leaders. I really do hope they soon have a plan of action that they are prepared to talk about.

Stop press: just heard that local MPs Tessa Jowell and Harriet Harman will be contacting various local organisations such as the Southwark Pensioners' Action Group so that they can monitor the experiences of people using the services that Southwark provides. They will also be asking the CQC to provide regular reports on Southwark's progress towards improving standards.

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