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Councils told to test ‘twin hatter’ plans

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Councils with or planning to create so-called ‘twin hatter’ directors of social services have been told to perform ‘assurance tests’ by the Department of Education.

The department published statutory guidance this week on the roles of councils’ directors of and lead members for children’s services. The guidance said that where councils were planning to give additional functions to children’s services directors, they should “undertake a local test of assurance so that the focus on outcomes for children and young people will not be weakened or diluted as a result of adding such other responsibilities”.

Where the additional responsibilities are those of the director of adult services, the tests should also consider the impact on the adults services responsibilities as well, the guidance said.

While the precise nature of these assurance processes will be for councils to determine, the guidance said that a number of elements were “likely to be essential in assuring effective arrangements are in place”.

These include a consideration of “the seniority or and breadth of responsibilities allocated to individual post holders and how this impacts on their ability to undertake those responsibilities”.

Councils’ arrangements should be reviewed regularly and should be subject to peer challenge and review.

The government last year decided against banning expanded roles for directors of children’s services (DCSs). A review of child protection carried out by Professor Eileen Munro had said that the creation of ‘twin hatter’ social services directors was “inconsistent with the aims and objectives of the legislation”. However, children’s minister Tim Loughton never committed to imposing that recommendation.

Research conducted by LGC last year found there were some 34 councils with such ‘twin hatter’ roles.

Despite recent comments from education secretary Michael Gove about how the process of removing schools from local authority control is now irreversible, the guidance also spelled out a range of expectations on DCSs in relation to educational standards.

DCSs and lead members should “take rapid and decisive action in relation to poorly performing schools”, “promote high standards… by supporting effective school to school collaboration” and establish schools forums for their areas.

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