Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No.101) (HC 942), on Personal Social Services Performance Grant for 2002-2003

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Jacqui Smith: The hon. Lady makes a fair point about deprivation—that it is not always concentrated in geographical areas. That is why the Government have gone further than any other in focusing on tightly defined communities with real deprivation. We are also using all our policies to tackle the problems that underpin the health and social care inequalities that I outlined earlier.

The hon. Member for Spelthorne implied—we had a little run-around on his concerns about the distribution of resources—that the star rating determines the distribution. It does not. The star rating determines the flexibility and freedom granted to local authorities in their spending the allocation.

Mr. Wilshire: I am grateful to the Minister for that. If the record shows that I made a leap from the star rating to distribution, I was clearly wrong and I apologise. However, will the Minister comment on the fact that it is unreasonable that issues relating to children affect how an authority is treated when dealing with services for the elderly. An authority such as Surrey may well be very good indeed and would benefit from maximum flexibility with the elderly, while its problems may lie with children's services. I was complaining about the star-rating system, which uses indicators that have nothing to do with the ring-fenced sum.

Jacqui Smith: The hon. Gentleman is right to the extent that star ratings are determined by judgments about both adult and children's services. They are designed in such a way that it is not possible to achieve three stars unless local authorities are achieving well in both services, which overcomes the hon. Gentleman's concerns to some extent.

Mr. Wilshire: The Minister reinforces rather than answers my question. She makes my point for me by suggesting that it is impossible to achieve a three-star rating without being good in the area of children's services, when I am saying that that should not be relevant. The Government will not penalise an authority in its freedom to treat intermediate care in the way that it thinks best. It is impossible to get a

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three-star rating because of the way that children's services are delivered. That is my complaint, not the solution to the problem.

Jacqui Smith: As we develop the way in which we use the star ratings across all grants it will become increasingly important to have a consistent approach throughout social services departments. A three-star rating determines the extent of management capacity and focus within an authority that enable it to spend the money and deliver the outcomes that we want.

The hon. Gentleman asked if the Government were developing the process surrounding star ratings. Of course we are, and we want to ensure that they are appropriate because we will need more freedom to differentiate within the star ratings.

Finally, several hon. Members raised the issue of rewards. The hon. Member for Spelthorne is right that pay is part of the reward for staff, which is why extra investment in social services will ensure, especially in some of our lower paid independent care providers, that pay reflects the sort of job that people are doing. There is much more to working in social care, however, than pay. We have highlighted some areas in which rewards would be likely to incentivise staff and ensure that they have the ability to continue to improve services. We have made it clear that the flexibility to determine those rewards will be made at a local level, in addition to increases in investment and support for training.

This fund deserves the welcome that it has received from many hon. Members. It gives local authorities extra money to deliver important services that promote the independence of older people. It also builds on a strategy that, by promoting innovation and linking flexibility to success, will ensure that our public services continue to develop in the way that the Government want, and we are determined to ensure that that will continue.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Committee has considered the Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No. 101) (HC 942), on Personal Social Services Performance Grant for 2002-03.

        Committee rose at seven minutes to Twelve o'clock.

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The following Members attended the Committee:
Adams, Mrs. Irene (Chairman)
Burstow, Mr.
Calton, Mrs.
Casale, Roger
Chapman, Sir Sydney
Eagle, Angela
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Hughes, Mr. Kevin

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Loughton, Tim
Love, Mr.
Mandelson, Mr.
Skinner, Mr.
Smith, Jacqui
Trickett, Jon
Wilshire, Mr.

 
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