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FEATURES - CLOSING THE CREDIBLITY GAP

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Rodney Brooke, chair of the agency set up to repair the reputation of social work, considers the past and the futur...
Rodney Brooke, chair of the agency set up to repair the reputation of social work, considers the past and the future with Suzanne Simmons-Lewis

Challenges abound for Rodney Brooke, in his new role as chair of the General Social Care Council.

Within the last few months, the failings of the social care profession have rarely been out of the headlines as the Victoria Climbie inquiry has unfolded.

Mr Brooke was headhunted to chair the new agency, which was set up to transform the profession's credibility by driving up standards through regulation (see p16).

'It's a tremendously exciting challenge,' he says.

'The idea of a professional body for social workers has been around for at least 25 years. It is something we campaigned for when I was at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. Given time, the GSCC will ensure there is a competent social care workforce.'

Mr Brooke is no stranger to challenges - he has seen many in his local government career of 46 years.

A lawyer by profession, he has held a clutch of top jobs in local government. Mr Brooke was chief executive of the former West Yorkshire CC, and chief executive of Westminster City Council in the 1980s. After a stint as chair of Bradford District Health Authority in the early 1990s, he became secretary of the AMA for seven years.

At present, apart from being an LGC columnist,

Mr Brooke's consultancy work has taken him as far afield as Columbia and China. He is chair of the Dolphin Square Trust, governor of Pimlico School and chairman of the Commission on Accessible Transport in London.

Mr Brooke says some of his most enjoyable days were at the AMA. 'Working with Jeremy Beecham (Lab) at the AMA was very rewarding, and you are at the hub of things,' he explains. 'Although throughout the Thatcher government it was difficult to see that we were achieving very much at all, at least we were keeping the flag flying.'

But he adds: 'We certainly spearheaded the campaign against the poll tax - that was very successful as it was abolished, indeed, Mrs Thatcher fell as a result.'

Less enjoyable times were spent as chief executive at Westminster City Council, where he worked with then leader Dame Shirley Porter.

'I resigned in 1989 when it became clear that Dame Shirley wanted to run the authority in a way unacceptable to me. She was an impossible leader to work with and, of course, after I left the homes for votes scandal blew up.'

In 1996, Mr Brooke was rewarded with a CBE, at a time when honours for local government officers were rare. But his career has come from humble beginnings and a great deal of determination. Mr Brooke left school at 15 to train as a journalist. He was attracted to a career in local government while covering council news stories.

He then worked as an office clerk at Morely Council while he studied to become a solicitor, after learning this was the best way to get on in local government.

'I was one of the few solicitors who qualified without going to law school - my council wouldn't pay for me to go,' he recalls. 'So I took my holidays and went to Leeds reference library to study all the relevant books to take the exams, and I passed with honours.'

Looking forward to his new role he says: 'Apart from Westminster, every organisation I have worked for has been abolished, merged or disappeared. So it's very exciting to be with a body which has been created, as opposed to being wound up.'

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