I WELCOMED the recent discussion families of disabled children had with our Social Services, as reported in the Messenger on December 16.

Carers and users are entitled to expect consistent levels of quality and support, irrespective of whether it is in-house or externally provided.

I appreciate the confidence many carers place in Trafford council's own care staff and I would expect similar levels of professional skill and dedication to be delivered by other providers.

Trafford has some 489 children with "special needs." Planning, monitoring and assessment systems for these children are considered robust and relatively quick, (SSI inspectors 1997) compared with other authorities.

The recent childrens services and "Quality Protects" and respite action plan is designed to strengthen good practice, planning and front-line staffing to support our "special needs" children, while the extra allocated £82,000 Carers Grant recognises the difficult but invaluable role carers play.

Since the Tories introduced the Community Care Act in 1983 and compulsive competitive tendering, social service departments have been obliged to expose more and more of their services to external contractors, with mixed results.

Many, in the traditional voluntary sector have been excellent. But some private sector providers have prioritised profit over care, with disastrous results.

When Best Value replaces CCT in April 2000, local authorities will be required to undertake continuous improvement across all services and contracts under a more rigorous inspection regime.

This can only strengthen the quality and protection Trafford social services are building for users, carers and partners.

Cllr Paul Dolan, Cabinet Member for Social Services, Trafford MBC.

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