Friday, September 25, 1998 Published at 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Social services 'are not failing'
Vulnerable people are not being failed, says social services chiefs
Local government and social work chiefs have hit back at suggestions that they have been failing vulnerable people.
The accusation came in a leaked draft of the long-awaited Social Services White Paper obtained by the BBC.
Roy Taylor, president of the Association of Directors of Social Services, rejected the claim, although he welcomed new independent monitoring of care home standards.
And Brian Briscow, chief executive of the Local Government Association, said many of the high-profile abuse cases which have come to light recently are up to 20 years old.
"The quality of care is very high indeed. Of course, there have been extremely regrettable and even disastrous odd instances, but most happened in the past.
"There have been a lot of new inspection regimes and standards of training have improved," he said.
However, he added that the LGA and government would continue to discuss ways to ensure vulnerable people were protected.
Many of the general areas covered in the leaked paper have been known for some time and social care organisations are waiting to see the small print before they comment.
New arrangements for inspecting care homes, setting up a new body to regulate and register care workers and introducing national standards for home care services have all been widely trailed.
Mervin Kohler of Help the Aged said: "We would be making a fuss if registration for care homes was not in the paper."
On independent home inspections, he commented: "What we know is not enough to be able to judge if the new system will be better than the one it is replacing."
He wanted to know if the new system would increase inspectors' powers.
He said the government had been promising to publish the Long-Term Care Charter for a year.
And he added that he was not aware that social services had been failing so badly as had been suggested in the leaked report.
"They say it is all about restoring public faith and confidence, but I was not aware it had broken down," he said.
Sheila Scott of the National Care Homes Association said that, although the main subjects covered by the paper were not new, it was important that there was now actual proof that they would be implemented.
She said one of the main advances was a pledge to set national guidelines on who should be allowed care services.
Currently access to services depends on whether local authorities can afford to pay and there have been several legal cases with people trying to overturn council decisions to deny them access to services.
"This is really important," said Ms Scott.
"At the moment people do not know if they can receive care services. If a local authority hits a financial problem, it can change the criteria it uses and deny people care.
"Is that any way to treat vulnerable people? People should be assessed on their need not the local authority's ability to pay."
The NCHA has been campaigning for 10 years for local authority and private and voluntary sector homes to come under the same inspection regime.
"We are delighted with this. For us in the private and voluntary sector there is a very, very strong piece of legislation on inspection, but local authority homes are not protected by the law."
She also welcomed news that charging for home care services is to be standardised.
At the moment, some local authorities do not charge for services like meals on wheels, while others have different scales of charges.
Many have recently introduced or raised charges because their budgets are under strain.
The White Paper is due to be published in November, but there are fears there may not be time to push it through in this session of Parliament.