You know this ... £20,000 please!

PUBLISHED: 15:22 01 February 2007 | UPDATED: 13:48 04 May 2010

COUNTY council chiefs have paid thousands of pounds to an outside consultant to tell them what they already know - that they are failing some of the county s most vulnerable adults. The consultant failed to unearth anything new about the problems with adu

COUNTY council chiefs have paid thousands of pounds to an outside consultant to tell them what they already know - that they are failing some of the county's most vulnerable adults.

The consultant failed to unearth anything new about the problems with adult social care but gave the team the "confidence to know they were heading in the right direction".

For his confidence-boosting report and his support until the end of the financial year, taxpayers will have forked out £20,000.

This is half the figure the cash-strapped council claims it needs to cut from respite care to help balance its books.

Consultant Jan Didrichsen has given the team help to "sprint" through the next couple of months when it hopes to push its performance rating up a notch to two stars after the next inspection in March.

But the plan to take the service into the future is still being drawn up and won't be available until later this month.

Cambridgeshire County Council's director of adult support services, Claire Bruin, said: "There has been nothing unearthed that we were not already aware of, but in taking this action it has enabled us to feel confident that we are doing the right work."

After a recent inspection of adult social care, the council was awarded just one star, with its performance rated the lowest in the eastern region and leaving it ranked 140 out of 150 councils nationally.

It had fallen from 127th the year before and its capacity to improve was rated as "uncertain".

Ms Bruin said: "We have to be sure that our systems are as efficient and effective as possible. That's what we're judged on.

"We need to ensure that the right people are getting the service they need as quickly as we can after we have identified the need.

"The inspectors agree that on the whole the services are of good quality, but there's quite a lot of emphasis on the processes."

But she admitted "progress has been slower than other authorities".

Now the county council's Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Julian Huppert, fears the controlling Tories have "lost the plot".

He said: "Some of them are in denial. They genuinely think they are doing a good job. This report is all about what they have to do to fix the star rating. I don't give a damn what the star rating is so long as the county is giving good service.

"Spending £20,000 alone will not fix it. But if by spending £20,000 it will mean they will stop overspending by several millions every year then that's great news."

Mr Didrichsen said: "We are all working in the same direction to achieve the same improvements but no-one can guarantee that we will get the two star rating. We need to sustain and gather momentum not just for the next three months but for the next two-and-a-half years."

Cllr John Reynolds, cabinet member for the county council's environment and community services, said: "Jan has been very helpful giving us the support not only to gather pace towards the end of this financial year but to gain momentum so that we can move up the star ratings.

"The purpose of this report was to give a health check to the service we provide. Everyone is wanting to make sure that we deliver improving services to those people we care for at the moment.

"We believe Jan's report points the way to improving our service and getting us up from one stars to two.

"It will be challenging but we believe the staff are all focused with that single objective.

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