Council fails to shine in star test

COUNCIL officials are still failing some of the county s most vulnerable adults despite recruiting a highly-paid consultant to try to push up their star rating. Government inspectors have found most of the service is just adequate and have listed a cata

COUNCIL officials are still failing some of the county's most vulnerable adults despite recruiting a highly-paid consultant to try to push up their star rating.

Government inspectors have found most of the service is just "adequate" and have listed a catalogue of areas which still need to be improved.

They failed to raise Cambridgeshire County Council's one star for adult services for the fifth year running, leaving it in the bottom 19 per cent of councils across England.

The decision comes after assurances in January that consultant, Jan Didrichsen, had given the team the help it needed to "sprint" towards two stars.

He was paid £20,000 of taxpayers' money for his report which failed to throw any new light on the problems but gave the team the "confidence to know they were heading in the right direction".

But, 11 months on, although the Commission for Social Care Inspection found that the council's capacity to improve services further was promising, it revealed that day-to-day processes are not working well to support what the service is trying to achieve.

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"This just goes on and on and is it the result of sheer incompetence, sloppiness and complacency," said Cllr Geoffrey Heathcock, Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet member of health and adult social care.

"They can't keep telling us it is going to get better because people don't believe them. The number one priority should be sorting this out.

"There should be a proper transparent timetable in days not months or I fear that in the next 12 months more people will be let down, more people will not get the care they deserve and that is intolerable.

"A consultant was employed to tell the director what she is already paid to know and should be doing in the first place."

The inspectors found that:

* There was no strategic plan to ensure the right workforce is in place and progress is being hampered by a lack of joined-up, effective IT systems.

* The council had notched up a poorer performance than comparable councils in getting people with learning difficulties into work.

* Although there had been a slight increase in helping these people to live at home, the council had failed to reach its own targets.

* Improvements needed to be made in the number of people with drug and alcohol problems accessing services and carers of old people needed better communication.

* Over the last two years no progress had been made in implementing a single assessment process for people and forecasts had been "wildly optimistic".

But the CSCI inspectors also found aspects for praise, including:

* Adult safeguarding arrangements were very sound and under committed leadership.

* There was an effective complaints procedure and the number of complaints was low

* More older people with high levels of need were being helped to live at home.

* Intermediate care was improving helping people to leave hospital earlier.

* There had been a reduction in older people being placed in residential care.

* People with learning difficulties receiving direct payments was better than comparator authorities.

* The number of people with mental health problems receiving direct payments exceeded the council's target.

* The drug and alcohol team provided appropriate treatments with people completing their treatment programme.

* The delivery of items of equipment to people with physical and sensory disabilities was generally prompt.

* Carers of older people are consulted and involved in decision-making and support for carers was good.

Conservative councillor Fred Yeulett, cabinet member for adults and older people, said: "We have the momentum in the right direction, and there is a commitment from the people we are working with.

"This is our priority to improve these services. We have got it going forward now and it is like turning round a big ship.

"The figures in all areas are going up all the time, some faster than others and we are working towards two stars.