Cardiff Council social services departments criticised by watchdog

Cardiff Council’s under-fire social services departments have been hit by fresh criticism, this time by Wales’ care services watchdog.

In its annual review of the authority, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) says only “limited progress” has been made in many areas identified for improvement and some parts of the service “deteriorated”.

The findings will today be presented to the authority by CSSIW’s regional director Sue Van Eijkern and lead inspector Howard Teague.

It comes just weeks after a separate inquiry found children’s services staff in Cardiff had more than double the caseload social workers should have been taking on.

The investigation was launched after documents leaked to the Echo last year revealed intake and assessment staff were so overwhelmed with work they feared it could result in a child’s death.

The CSSIW report, for the 2010/11 financial year, found the council has continued to see an increase in referrals to children’s services.

It says performance in many aspects of children’s services is “mixed” and “poor” in some parts of the service, such as assessment, with delays in responding to child protection concerns.

Frontline children’s services teams continue to experience problems in recruiting and retaining social workers and managers.

Adult services, meanwhile, continue to have waiting lists for allocation and assessment. The inspector found assessments for older people and people with a disability required “considerable improvement development”.

There is evidence that assessments are not routinely outcome-focussed, seldom identify interests and aspirations, unmet needs and wider well-being.

Some older people described services as “disempowering, inflexible, inconsistent, poorly co-ordinated, of poor quality and patronising”.

The report adds: “Some people described feeling institutionalised within their own homes, describing themselves and their life experience as ‘living by the clock’.”

A Cardiff council spokeswoman said some of the areas identified for improvement had already been addressed, while others, including children’s services assessment, were continuing to receive attention.

She said: “The CSSIW report also includes acknowledgement of areas in which the council performs well, including: focused and proactive support to children and young people with disabilities who have very complex needs, and rehabilitation and enablement services for adult service users which are producing real and positive results for service users, helping many to retain their independence, and maintaining people within their own homes.

“The wellbeing of people requiring support and care is of paramount importance and identifying and meeting their needs is the council’s main priority. We will continue to work closely with service users, providers and advocacy groups to ensure that the best outcomes are achieved.”