Rowen and Mulgrew in Adult Care summit

July 26, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Rowen MP and Councillor Dale Mulgrew meeting Ivan Lewis MPRochdale MP Paul Rowen was joined by Cabinet Member for Adult Care Dale Mulgrew in a summit with Health Minister Ivan Lewis MP. The meeting was called after Ivan Lewis criticised Rochdale Councilduring a visit to Rochdale earlier this year Mr Lewis made serious criticism of the standard of adult care provided by the Council.

Paul Rowen MP said: "We had an excellent meeting and was able to update the Minister on the improvements the Council is making.

"Councillor Mulgrew was able to report to Mr Lewis that he had resolved the problems highlighted. We are not being complacent and acknowledge that there have been problems but we are making good progress."

Councillor Mugrew said: "The purpose of the meeting was to brief the Minister on the progress that Adult Care is making since his visit in April. If you remember Ivan made some remarks in April and instead of writing to him Paul decided that we should go and meet with him personally and update him.

"Jim Wilson started the meeting by providing re-assurance that good progress is being made on the improvement plan that was produced as a result of last year's older people's inspection and that we are tackling some of the problems as highlighted in that inspection. Jim mentioned that within the service there was some capacity issues that he had discovered that had addressed, and this should help social services respond to the challenges set down by the inspection. He also emphasised that as he has worked in many local authorities he recognised that there was some good services in Rochdale, better performing than in other local authorities he had experienced, but, of course, there were services that he himself viewed as requiring improvement and were under-delivering. But he said all he performance measures that the Minister would judge Rochdale on as part of the national performance indicator set we as a local authority were hitting and doing very well on, including doing well on reviews, assessments and intermediate care.

"Paul Rowen mentioned that he acknowledged the history of social services as a major factor in the overall outcome of the inspection and that some of the problem areas he had also learned about during his surgeries, but then stated that there is some good work going on, including the POPPS Pilots (Partnership for Older People's Partnerships) which is recognised as now making a valuable contribution to older people's communities and is really engaging senior citizens to have a say on what their needs are and were social services are required to match this need. Paul mentioned the learning disabilities service where our partnership board meetings are now well attended. He mentioned that some of the inspection's report critique was based on the Council's slow move towards direct payments and personal budgets, but that under Jim Wilson and myself change is happening quicker.

"I mentioned to Ivan that we probably had not adapted quick enough to the innovations that his Government is expecting local authorities to follow and that it was his agenda on personal budgets that we are now committed to follow. In fact, I mentioned the target of 1980 service users to have an individual budget that we have been set by DoH as a challenging one which was one we will have to really respond to and can only do this by changing the culture of adult care.

"On some prodding from Ivan I affirmed to him that I had recognised there were weaknesses in adult care, including the slow progress towards modernising some of the services and this was very much a strategic problem, but that we are transforming under our new director of adult care. I also asserted that when the inspection report came out we took swift and decisive action in making some tough decisions on the direction of the services, including replacing the man at helm and the starting of a new re-ablement service. I invited Ivan to come to Rochdale to see the POPPS in action and hopefully to share with him some of the exemplary practises the Council is involved with."

Responding, Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk said: "I spoke to Ivan Lewis MP after his meeting with our MP and the portfolio holder for social care. The Care Services Minister made it clear after his visit to Rochdale that he would be monitoring the situation here because the service was so poor, so he obviously welcomed the dialogue. But that does not mean that the Lib Dems have managed a quantum leap in terms of raising standards in the space of a few months. Let's not forget that the Commission for Social Care Inspection rated this service as 'poor' in their most recent assessment and that only a few months ago, Councillor Dale Mulgrew admitted that staff 'were leaving in droves' because confidence in the service was so low. Furthermore, let's not forget that the Care Services Minister referred to the standard of care being offered here as 'immoral'. Now we're expected to take the Lib Dems word for it - without any evidence - that everything is going swimmingly."

Among the questions that Mr Danczuk said needed to be answered was whether staff retention levels had been addressed since Councillor Mulgrew's admission that the people responsible for delivering the service were "leaving in droves" and whether UNISON were satisfied with the new direction of the services.

"Only a few months ago a Rochdale UNISON branch member claimed that 'morale was at an all time low' and that management were finding it difficult to run the service," he said. "Assistant branch secretary Maureen Howarth said she expected 'the situation to get worse'. It's hard to square these comments with Councillor Mulgrew's glowing assessment."