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Adult social care in County Durham well placed for challenges ahead

Published December 07, 2022 9.09am

The adult social care service we deliver is responding to the "challenges that lie ahead," including changes in national policy and legislation, councillors will hear next week.

A meeting on Wednesday 14 December will receive a report giving an update on current issues affecting the services we deliver for adults in need of social care.

It sets out how, despite the Department for Health and Social Care allowing local authorities to prioritise care during the coronavirus pandemic so that the most urgent and acute needs could be met, our adult care services continued to operate a full care management and co-ordination service throughout.

Our Cabinet will be told that adult social care services in County Durham currently work with 19,883 people who need and are eligible for support, with a workforce of 1,048 staff providing that assistance.

The meeting will also hear that, reflecting a national trend, recruitment and retention are significant issues for the service at present, with higher levels of turnover and staff absences than in previous years. Cabinet will be told that the service has undertaken audit work to inform its current and planned service development activity.

The report to the meeting also covers the increase in demands on social care, another national trend, and how we are developing tools to better measure complexity in adult care caseloads to assist with these.

Positive outcomes

Despite the challenges, councillors will hear that our in-house Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated care services consistently achieve positive outcomes from their annual inspections. At present, two of our three regulated provisions are rated as 'outstanding' and one as 'good.'

Furthermore, in the most recent national Social Work Health Check survey carried out in December 2021 and January 2022, 115 of our adult social care staff rated their employer as good against all eight national standards for employers of social workers, for the second year running.

In addition, general customer satisfaction rates remain good with 64.5 per cent of service users extremely or very satisfied with the care and support services they receive. This is comparable to the North East figure and above the national figure of 63.9 per cent.

To build on this picture, a programme of service improvement is being rolled out and our vision for adult care has recently been refreshed to reflect the national vision.

The meeting will hear there are a number of significant changes ahead for the service including some key legislative and policy changes. These include:

•      The introduction of a national inspection framework for local authority adult care services by the CQC from April 2023

•      Amendments to the Mental Capacity Act (2005) which will replace deprivation of liberty safeguards with liberty protection safeguards

•      A refreshed national Adult Social Care Outcomes Framework.

Plans in place

Councillors will be told that the service has implementation plans in place in relation to each of these.

Cllr Chris Hood, our Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has been a really testing time for adult social care services across the country. As we have moved to living with Covid, we are seeing the increased challenges people face with their mental health as one example.

"We are committed to ensuring the services we provide are the best they can be as we look to the future and the challenges currently facing the sector, such as recruitment and retention, increased demand and new legislation.

"We do feel we are well positioned with plans in place to address these challenges, including a programme of service improvements, and customer and staff satisfaction at good levels.

"We are immensely grateful to our staff, whose resilience and dedication is to be commended. Our workers continue to make such a difference in their support to some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged adults, by ensuring their rights are upheld and their social care needs addressed. We look forward to them continuing to make such a difference in the months and years ahead."

The report to the meeting can be viewed on the online agenda.