By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
People in Nottingham are experiencing “significant delays” for adult social care – but fewer people are now leaving the council department which runs the services.
Watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has been given a new responsibility to assess councils on how well they are meeting their duties to provide people with adult social care under the Care Act.
Nottingham City Council is one of five local councils across the country to volunteer for a pilot review, and the CQC will use its findings to inform its approach to the main assessments in the future.
The report, published on November 17, gave an indicative rating of ‘requires improvement’.
While noting positives, it shows the council needs to “make improvements to ensure people have access to a good standard of adult social care and support”.
James Bullion, the CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care said: “During our assessment of Nottingham City Council, we found a workforce who were clearly passionate, and committed to providing the best care and support for the people of Nottingham.
“However, staff told us that support wasn’t consistent across different teams, with some feeling very well supported while others were struggling with high case-loads and low morale.
“Leaders have been taking action to address this, with a renewed focus on recruitment and retention, which was having a positive impact.”
In Nottingham around 5,900 people accessed long-term adult social care support in 2022/23, on top of a further 1,320 people who accessed short-term support.
The Labour-run council’s entire spending was £560,303,000 last year, almost £38m more than estimated.
Around 22 per cent of spending, or around £123m, was on adult social care, abour £8.5m more than expected.
The rising costs of adult social care, and demand for services, have been contributing to the budget deficits which are now threatening the council’s overall financial stability.
The £38m deficit in 2022/23 has been followed by an in-year gap of £23m for 2023/24, and the council says it is facing the possibility of effective bankruptcy.
Work towards better financial stability is being overseen by an improvement board, appointed by the Government following the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.
Numerous transformation programmes are taking place to solve financial problems, including in adult social care.
Amid the work, the new CQC report highlights it received “mixed feedback” from staff about working for the council.
“Some staff told us morale was low due to a combination of vacancies, the ongoing internal restructure, and an increase in demand,” the report says.
Meanwhile some “very positive feedback” was received from other staff about the working culture in Nottingham as whole.
Staff turnover had improved from 23 per cent to just under 11 per cent, following the implementation of a career progression strategy.
However, staff still feel they could better look at the quality of their work if case loads reduced.
“Significant delays” have been reported at times in people getting through to the council’s contact centre, with some people made to wait up to over an hour and a half.
The report further highlights there was a lack of availability of interpreters due to there being such a diverse range of languages spoken in the city.
The city was assessed as part of the pilot alongside councils in Birmingham, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire and Suffolk.
Cllr Linda Woodings (Lab), the council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, added: “We’re pleased that the CQC has recognised key areas where the council are working well to support local people and we will use the areas identified for development to inform our ongoing improvement work.”