67. Memorandum from Inspectorate
of Social Services
This letter responds to yours of 26 March. You
asked for my views on aspects of SSI's work to inform the Joint
First some brief scene setting about the Social
SSI in England relates to 150 local
councils with social services responsibilities. My inspectors
have an ongoing business relationship with each council across
the whole range of social care topics; we carry out periodic inspections
in each council; regular in-year social services performance monitoring
takes place and this culminates at the year end with an overall
performance assessment of each council. The findings from our
inspections and monitoring work are used by councils to prepare
action plans for change. In our performance improvement role we
help them with the change agenda directly using inspectors' knowledge
and skills or by making links with other experts/centres of good
The rights of users of social services
and their carers have been much to the fore in SSI's work from
the early 1990s to date. Within the theme of fair access to services
we pay particular attention to information provision, arrangements
for assessing need, planning of services to meet need, rationing
and arrangements for providing services. We look closely at how
service users and their carers are able to contribute to assessments
about their need and the resulting care plans. We look too at
the operation of the councils' social services complaints procedures.
Our concern for service users' rights and opportunities has led
to inspections and monitoring work in service areas like compulsory
mental health admissions, residential and community support services
for older people, services for black children and their families
and services for people with learning disabilities. Our inspection
teams also involve lay people alongside professional staff.
I turn now to the particular questions 1, 2
and 3 you have posed in your letter.
As Chief Inspector, I issued a local authority
circularLAC(2000)17 in July 2000 alerting councils with
social services responsibilities to the coming into force of the
Human Rights Act 1998. I asked councils to take action:
To ensure all staff (including those
contracted by councils to provide social care services) are made
aware of the duty which the Act places on public authorities.
To ensure that councils' local policies,
operational procedures and practices continue to be compatible
with the European Convention on Human Rights. I asked that any
inconsistencies, which might be due to existing central policy
or legislation, should be notified to inspectors who in turn would
raise the matters within the Department of Health.
In the background note to the circular I advised
councils to actively develop existing good practice in a manner
suited to the human rights culture, linking as appropriate to
the existing equality and race relations agenda.
Since the publication of that circular, our
Autumn 2001 performance monitoring work looked particularly at
action by councils on human rights. That exercise was conducted
through a self-completed position statement. In the fair access
section we asked councils to describe progress they had made in
implementing the Human Rights Act. Five possible responses were
available to councils. The table attached shows the distribution
of responses from one"not yet considered" through
to five"action plan implemented" according to
councils grouped by SSI region and also by type of council. Our
national monitoring report publication which appeared in December
described the responses from the councils as follows:
Most councils (84 per cent) reckon
their progress on the Human Rights Act to fall into one of the
three middle categories (discussed by social services management,
reported to council, action plan agreed) in essentially equal
proportions. 31 per cent of shire counties have progressed to
implementing the action plan while just one council had not yet
considered the matter.
The main issues were the implications
of the Act, the policy and practice in relation to child care
and mental health services including assessment and care planning
functions. Other issues included access to information, the quality
strategies and the handling of complaints.
The same position statement and the subsequent
report dealt with other rights issues. We asked about councils'
progress in developing an action plan to implement the Race Relations
Act. The councils were also asked to indicate the stage reached
in adopting the Commission for Racial Equality standards to develop,
audit and review race equality standards. In other parts of the
position statement councils were invited to report the action
taken under the Disability Discrimination Act to improve the employment
of people with disabilities. On Fair Access to Care for Older
People we sought information on arrangements for scrutiny and
review of age related policies and service eligibility criteria.
Turning to inspection work our recently designed
inspections have standards and criteria which make explicit reference
to human rights. An important current example is found in the
standards for the interagency inspection of Safeguards for Children.
This inspection brings SSI and a number of other public service
inspectorates together to look at arrangements made by local councils
and other local agencies to safeguard children at risk. I attach
extracts from Standard 1, 2, 4, 5 (with its specific human rights
reference) and 8.
Led by SSI this work illustrates well how we are trying to address
a significant set of human rights issues in the very complex policy
and practice arena of safeguarding children.
Regarding your latter questions 4-6.
SSI does maintain a record of the performance
of local councils with social services responsibilities. This
system of performance assessment data and information (PADI) is
used to store the continuing performance story on councils. A
variety of standard and customised reports are produced according
to requirements. Our annual review meeting with each council is
supported by a performance profile document. From earlier monitoring
activity or inspection, service user rights might be flagged for
end of year overall review discussion in the annual review meeting.
This could be followed up by references to further action in the
letter we send to Directors of Social Services which records the
annual review meeting key discussion and decision points.
Either following the annual review meeting letter
or the publication of an inspection report where rights issues
are posing concerns, inspectors will offer advice often drawing
on good practice models from our work in other councils. The kind
of issues here include improving users' information about and
access to services and their participation in key decisions about
their lives and/or about the services they are receiving. Our
practice is closer to the last option among those set out in question
6 although through our continuing business link role with councils,
their requests for advice on rights issues may arise and be responded
to at any time.
SSI's role in social services inspection and
performance evaluation gives us a clear locus in commenting on
human rights issues as they arise in the way vulnerable people
are assessed for and receive social services. We consciously seek
out service user views during inspections, service users take
part in our inspection teams and we are considering how to incorporate
the service user contribution to our overall assessments of social
9 May 2002
Annex: responses to the question in the Autumn
2001 Position Statement"what progress has your Council
made in implementing the Human Rights Act?"
|IMPLEMENTING THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT |
Not yet considered
Discussed by Social Services Management
Reported to Council
Action plan agreed
Action plan implemented
|Northern & Yorkshire||0.0
Not printed here. Back