The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has warned councils about the risks of separating executive responsibility for schools and children’s social services in management restructuring.
Last week Kent CC decided to proceed with a consultation on a revised executive structure that would see the creation of separate directors of social services and education, and it is expected that management streamlining in other authorities could change the remit of directors of children’s services.
The post of director of children’s services was created as part of Lord Laming’s report on the learnings from the death of Victoria Climbié and is a statutory role.
ADCS president Marion Davis, left, said one of the lessons of the Victoria Climbié tragedy and subsequent serious case reviews was the importance of a “single point of accountability” for education and children’s social services.
“Any new arrangements for managing children’s services, building partnerships across agencies and aligning priorities and resources for services for children should be judged against how well they continue to ensure strong leadership and accountability for the wellbeing of children and young people in the area, whether at school, at home or in the community,” she said.
“All local authorities will be looking carefully at their management structures in order to reduce costs and to protect frontline services, as far as is possible, from the impact of the cuts over the next four years.
“However, in doing this it is important that councils consider the reasons why the post of the director of children’s services and the associated children’s services departments were created.
“The current arrangements, bringing together the management of education and children’s social care with youth and early years services, have been in place for a relatively short time and the benefits of integrated services are only now coming to fruition in many areas.
“Much work has been done to bring together professionals from various disciplines working with children to develop a core set of skills and processes to build a complementary and integrated system of services for children – this is not just about having a director of children’s services but providing strong and clear leadership for the whole children’s workforce.”
Ms Davis, who is strategic director for children, young people, and families at Warwickshire CC, said there had been substantial improvements in outcomes for children since the introduction of the current system, and that those improvements should not be threatened by “unproven structural changes which may turn out to be disruptive and unnecessary”.
The proposed executive structure outlined to Kent’s cabinet last week would see five “corporate director” level posts beneath managing director Katherine Kerswell.
Of them, one would be a corporate director for education learning and skills – which would include the statutory director of children’s services role.
The other posts are: corporate director for families, health and social care; corporate director for customer and communities; corporate director for enterprise; deputy managing director/corporate director for business strategy and support.