Sunday, December 07, 2008

Rullsenberg Rants: Social Services reorganisation

I don't lightly criticise the government - I know there are plenty out there eager to do so - but the latest edict from Ed Balls has had both Cloud and I cursing loudly at the radio this morning. Heads of Social Services for Children must now be required to have experience of both Social Services and Education - given that it has been deemed that one of the failings in the baby P case was that the head of Social Services for Children only had experience of Education.

Well there is a F$@*ing good reason for that you complete %*$@! That is because until very recently local authorities were organised into Education departments and Social Services departments - with Social Services covering everyone from 0 years - death. Which was fine, except that anything that was happening under the edicts of Education was getting missed by those working with children under Social Services care, and vice versa.

So, not entirely unreasonably, the departments were reorganised to split Social Services into Children and Young Persons Services (bringing together Education and Social Services) and Adult Social Care and Health Services.

HOWEVER: what happens when children turn 18 years old? Hmm...

Anyway. With the reorganisation, there was obviously a need for new heads to be appointed to the amalgamated services for CYPS. You were always therefore going to be appointing someone without experience of half of the new service because someone with Education experience was likely to not have experience of Social Services and vice versa.

Now, I'm all for bringing people in who have experience of both Education and children's Social Services - but the recent reorganisation was hardly likely to have produced anything other than the likes of the Haringey Childrens' Services Head who had mostly/exclusively experience in one or the other due to the way in which the systems had been previously organised.

Similarly, I'm all in favour of people having more hands on experience before they have their own caseload of Social Services cases. BUT: how to achieve this? One of the key things affecting the delivery of good social services is that many social workers are just overloaded with work. This can never excuse poor choices and failing to follow the systems that are meant to protect, but when priorities have to be made between one horrific case and twenty-five, one hundred, or several hundred horrific cases it is easy to see how those failings can occur in the cases that capture the public imagination. All too often good social work goes unnoticed. That doesn't mean that the few failings that come to attention are only a small number - nor does it mean that they are guaranteed to be the tip of an iceberg. But the structures are failing both the workers and those needing protection. And making 'sweeping changes' yet again to the structures will not in itself prevent further tragedies occurring.