Critical report reveals over £2 million cost in care proceedings
Date posted: 18-09-2012
A CRITICAL report into the cost of care proceedings in Thurrock has exposed a number of failings including a poorly prepared barrister and missing paper work that have led to a bill of nearly £2 million in four years.
The report by accountancy firm, RSM Tenon will go in front of the Audit Commission on Thursday evening and may well lead to a number of searching questions from the committee.
The costs are broken down as follows.
2008-09: £423,651 (no. of cases not provided)
2009-10: £449,642 (48 cases)
2010-11: £613,014 (28 cases)
2011-12: £460,824 (42 cases)
The 2011 figure, in particular, is set to be scrutinised by the committee, where each case was estimated to have cost (on average) over £20,000. But this is only an estimate as the report suggests that there is insufficient information in the council systems.
The report may well lead to a war of words between the politicians. Chair of the committee, cllr Tunde Ojetola recently went on national radio to slam council staff pay-offs and especially in light of cost hikes imposed by the Labour government a few years ago.
The report is critical of several facets of the care proceedings system in Thurrock.
Amongst them are:
1.Applications are submitted to the courts with missing or incomplete key documents.
2.Managers are not always made aware of Service Level Agreements between Legal and Social Care.
3.Core Assessments are not always completed within the required timescales.
4.Costs for each individual case are not monitored.
5.Legal advice is inconsistent.
6. A Barrister was not well prepared and so they could not put the Council’s case forward.
The report, which will be discussed in full in Thursday night also outlines a number of positives including the good working relationship between council staff and other partners.
Among the recommendations are:
1.When conflicting advice is given by solicitors in the same case, the client department should notify the Head of Legal Services so she can look at the issue and ensure accurate, consistent advice is provided.
2.Efforts are being made to ensure that the solicitor with conduct of the case attends all meetings relating to the case to avoid conflicting advice being given.
3.Once the new People Services SLA is agreed, it should be cascaded down to Managers. This will ensure that they are aware of what is included in the services provided by Legal.
4.More care should be taken to ensure that core assessments are completed within the timescales as their absence may delay court proceedings and will impact upon the reputation of the Council.
5.People Services (Children Services) and Legal Services are working together to ensure that unless care proceedings have to be issued urgently that the core assessment has been completed.
YT will report back from the committee on Thursday evening.