Campaigners critical of report into Norfolk’s adult social care

Mark Harrison, front left, CEO of Equal Lives. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Mark Harrison, front left, CEO of Equal Lives. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

A report to investigate whether Norfolk County Council breached its statutory duties in caring for disabled people does not answer fundamental questions, campaigners have said.

Campaign group Equal Lives complained to the Care Quality Commission urging them to investigate what it claims are systematic failures at County Hall and a disregard for statutory duties under the Care Act.

The row centres upon the use of personal budgets, used by more than 4,000 people with a disability, age related condition or chronic illness.

It is claimed that, as the council has carried out budget cuts, many disabled people in Norfolk have seen the money they get to spend on care cut or withdrawn.

While the council denies it is in breach, it brought in the Social Care Institute for Excellence to examine its processes – funded by the Local Government Association.

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After talking to care users, care providers, social care staff, the report was published today - with a string of recommendations to improve social care.

The report acknowledged the council's 'genuine intention to improve outcomes' in 'difficult times', and had 'found a range of strengths and challenges around the Care Act implementation and associated changes.

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The recommendations include: • Carrying out an audit of how social work staff's time is spent to determine if they have enough time to deal with cases

• Change the system used to work out personal budgets

• Better sharing of information to ensure quality and consistency of practice

But Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: 'From my perspective it does not, and was never going to, answer any of the fundamental issues around our complaint. Only a formal inspection could reveal whether Norfolk is meeting its legal duties under the care act.' He said some care users were considering legal action, but said government reforms had made it difficult for people to get legal aid to make judicial challenges.

He said, with budgets being increasingly squeezed, he did not have confidence Norfolk had the resources to make changes to improve the service and warned: 'If the new administration goes through with another £20m which are coming down the line, then, over the next two years a dire situation is going to turn into an extreme crisis.'

Harold Bodmer, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said the report provided 'very helpful suggestions' about strengthening its practices around The Care Act.

He said: 'The Care Act provides a clear legal basis for significant change in ways of working in adult social care and is widely welcomed across the whole care sector. Like all local authorities, Norfolk is working hard to introduce and embed these changes in our practice.

'I think we should be encouraged by the findings of the review and I know we will continue collectively to support people to achieve the best possible quality of life.'

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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