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Monday, 20 December, 1999, 19:07 GMT
Social services ordered to improve

hackney town hall Hackney given deadline for improvement


Social services workers in the London borough of Hackney have been ordered to improve their children's services.

Health minister John Hutton has, for the first time, invoked powers to insist Hackney turns its children's services around.

Hackney came second in a list of 17 local authorities in England causing "great concern" when performance tables for social services were published last month.

A recent inspection by the Social Services Inspectorate (SSI) found the council was failing to meet its statutory responsibilities in what Mr Hutton calls "a number of very serious ways".

Homes not inspected

Their report found that by the end of September this year, 24% of looked after children did not have a care plan - and half of children in care were not visited as often as they should have been.

Further findings showed 19% of children's homes in the borough had not been inspected as they should have been in the 1998-99 period.

Hackney Council is now obliged to provide the Department of Health with an action plan by 11 January, setting out how they plan to implement the directions.

There will also be a further inspection by the SSI in July next year.


at risk list The council scored high in an 'at risk' list of social services departments published last month
Mr Hutton said: "Having reviewed all the information available to me, I consider that Hackney Council is failing to provide services for children as required under Part III of the Children Act 1989 and that councillors have failed to take urgent action ro rectify the situation.

"I have taken the serious step of issuing directions to ensure that services protect and promote the welfare of children in Hackney."

He said: "It is essential that the political and corporate issues are addressed to provide an appropriate environment in which these services can be delivered.

"The interim director of children dn families services John Dennington, working on a six month secondment, has made a good start in addressing the recommendations of the SSI inspection report.

Action plan 'has been developed'

"I am concerned therefore that action is taken to support, sustain and build on the work that John Dennington is leading."

A spokeswoman for Hackney said the council recognised its Children and Families Service faced a number of problems.

She said: "An action plan has been developed and put in place to prioritise and address the substantive problems associated with delivery of children and families services in Hackney.

"In September we advertised a number of key senior posts in our social services department and have recently appointed a head of registration and inspection and a director of social services - both of these posts were highlighted as priorities by the SSI.

"Despite this, the minister of health has decided to exercise his powers and place the children and families service under special measures. The council will now consider what this means and respond in due course."

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See also:
24 Nov 99 |  UK
Social services failings attacked
24 Nov 99 |  Health
Performances which caused 'great concern'
24 Nov 99 |  Health
The 'at risk' councils speak out

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