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COMMENT - THE BATTLE BEGINS OVER CHILDREN'S SERVICES

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The launch of a new vision for children's services by the Local Government Association and its partners puts local ...
The launch of a new vision for children's services by the Local Government Association and its partners puts local and central government in a head-to-head confrontation.

The surprise decision of the Department of Heath to moot the idea of children's trusts without first having a meaningful consultation with local government (LGC, 2 August) is unsettling and has led to fears the trusts would provide only a piecemeal approach to improving children's services.

Now the LGA, the Association of Directors of Social Services and the NHS Confederation have joined together in a rare collaboration to promote their own vision of the future of children's services. This clearly states an opposition to any major

re-structure and therefore to the DoH's proposals.

The three bodies have worked on the basis of enhancing the provisions of the Heath Act (Flexibilities) 1999, to engage local partners in a strategic way. Crucially though, every partner would maintain its own accountability.

The move comes in the wake of the recent annual report from the Social Services Inspectorate which highlighted the lack of strategic partnerships in children's services (LGC, 16 August). Both the DoH and the LGA/ADSS/NHS Confederation partnership are in a battle for councils to pilot their schemes.

The vision from the LGA and its partners is more detailed than anything the DoH has put forward so far. Significantly, a major health body has jointly developed this proposal with local government. Local government remains the expert on the ground. This should not be ignored.

The DoH, in comparison, has provided a tiny amount of detail of how children's trusts will look, fuelling speculation of private involvement.

While a well thought out model for children's trusts with local government backing could be a real option, councils will now be split between developing the LGA's vision or contributing to the DoH plan.

Last week's LGC question of the week straw poll on children's trusts showed the majority of respondents against them, with a significant minority undecided.

Now councils have been provided with an alternative model they should use their combined strength to fight the threat of central government imposing its plans without taking into account the results of the Climbie inquiry and other experts.

LGC

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