19 November 2004
More than two-thirds of social services departments in England are performing well but a minority are either failing to provide adequate services or lack the ambition to improve, the chief inspector of social services said this week.
The annual star ratings, published by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, showed a modest 8% increase in authorities gaining two and three stars.
But as the Local Government Association applauded the improvement, the commission and ministers warned the eight authorities languishing in the zero-star category that time was running out.
These include Birmingham, Bedfordshire, Cumbria, Oldham, Plymouth and Swindon, which have been given a zero rating for the second year running. Ealing and the Isles of Scilly have both dropped into this category from one star in 2003.
David Behan, chief inspector of social services, said he would be convening an urgent meeting with the leaders of Ealing and Scilly and would monitor their progress monthly.
Health and education ministers Stephen Ladyman and Margaret Hodge said they had not ruled out sending external consultants into the eight poor performers.
'We will not hesitate to use the powers at our disposal to ensure that people have safe and decent services,' Ladyman added.
The commission said it would also focus its attention on the 40 authorities that are rated one star and the 82 with two stars, particularly those with few prospects for improvement.
'We are also concerned that some councils are coasting,' said Denise Platt, chair of the CSCI. 'All councils in England should be providing three- star services to their local people.'