“I’m sorry” says Wirral Council social services boss after publication of highly report

WIRRAL Council’s Director of Social services has apologised after the publication of a highly critical report. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said Wirral Council’s performance on safeguarding adults and increasing choice for adults with learning disabilities was “poor”.

It was rated just “adequate” on making a positive contribution for adults with learning difficulties.

And the council’s capacity to improve was categorised as “uncertain”.

The inspection was carried out in May but the contents of the report were embargoed until a cabinet meeting last Thursday at Wallasey Town Hall.

John Webb, Director of Social Services called the report “tough but fair”.

He told councillors: “I’m going to start with an apology that this service is not acceptable.

“People have an absolute right to have confidence in their services.

He added: “The report says we restrict people’s lives and it reminds us of our over-reliance on traditional services.”

He made a second apology to outgoing council chief executive Steve Maddox, who was attending his last cabinet meeting before retiring.

Mr Webb said: “This shouldn’t be happening at your last cabinet but it is.”

Sue Talbot, who led the inspection, told councillors her team had found many examples of what she called “positive work” but said the council had been too slow to change and “has a bit of catching up to do”.

She said: “We feel the main challenge is to ensure that safeguarding is seen as everybody’s business and that individual staff receive appropriate training.”

In its report, CQC identified weaknesses around staff knowledge and access to support and information.

It said the council needed to:

  • Ensure that staff had appropriate knowledge
  • Ensure that people with learning disabilities have access to appropriate advice and support
  • Strengthen arrangements for learning from complaints

There was also criticism over carers.

Ms Talbot said: “Some people told us they had to wait a long time to get the help they and the person they cared for needed.”

Conservative council leader Jeff Green said: “Protecting vulnerable people and keeping them safe is one of the most basic things that the public can expect from its council.

“We are now aware of this issue and it will fall upon us as an administration to put it right.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful and we are totally committed to putting it right.”

He said he was disappointed the report could not be published before last Thursday’s meeting.

Cllr Green added: “It goes against what we’ve said, which is that we want to be as open as we can possibly be.”

Labour leader Cllr Steve Foulkes, who was council leader before May’s local elections, said he had been given a copy of the report only 15 minutes before the meeting.

He said: “We were aware of the issues within that department and we believed we had put some actions in place to try to improve.

“I apologise to anyone who was let down by this service in the past but we make no apology for taking time in the planning of how we can deliver personal services.

“This would involve, though, losing many of our well-loved services like day centres, which are now considered old-fashioned.

“I will not politicise this and as a responsible opposition we will try to help and support the current administration.”

A spokesman for Wirral Council said it would take “strong action” to address the issues raised.

The council’s progress will be reviewed in March.