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COMMENT - DON'T THROW CHILD CARE OUT WITH THE BATH WATER

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As another set of doom-laden reports shine the light on just how bad our social services can be, Alan Milburn has s...
As another set of doom-laden reports shine the light on just how bad our social services can be, Alan Milburn has signalled the end of the system as we know it.

The annual report from the joint reviews team found more than half the social services departments inspected last year had uncertain or poor prospects for improvement, while a government commissioned report found that children's safety is being compromised by all agencies.

There is no doubt our social services need a shake up, but the health secretary's plans to push ahead with bed blocking fines and his radical proposals for restructuring, including the implementation of children's trusts, are not necessarily the answer.

The Institute for Public Policy Research said in a report for the Association of Directors of Social Services that children's services should be brought together under one roof.

This is at odds with the association's own view, and with that of the Local Government Information Unit, which says the role of councils in child protection should be strengthened.

Mr Milburn has announced he

is to push ahead with children's trusts, but the good news is that they will be controlled by councils.

He spoke about 'a failure, which we all share, that has allowed the way we deliver and provide social services to get out of step with the society they serve'. And he admitted that investment in social services has not kept pace with other areas.

But his solution is to radically overhaul the system, without giving the existing arrangements

a chance - and without listening to experts in his consultations.

What our social services really need more than anything is proper investment and support for the systems which are in place at the moment.

These systems can work, but not with social worker vacancy rates of up to 40% across the country.

The government says it has invested and that its recruitment campaign has reversed the decline in applications. But these small measures are not enough. Rather than an upheaval in the organisation of social services, which will be risky and dangerous, proper investment is needed in the current system.

If the sort of energy and thinking being put into finding alternatives to the current social services system were channelled into making the current one work we might have a chance of protecting our vulnerable.

LGC

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