Kennedy puts onus on valuing staff

Public sector workers could expect more money, less bureaucracy and
better working conditions under a Liberal Democrat government,
party leader Charles Kennedy told Community Care this

Speaking before the opening of the Liberal Democrats’ annual
conference in Brighton, and a week after his historic appearance as
the first non-Labour Party leader to address the Trades Union
Congress, Kennedy insisted that “the most important thing to do is
to value public sector workers and not denigrate them”.

“Until there is a concerted effort to improve the perception of
social workers, combined with a dynamic recruitment and retention
drive for social services staff, social exclusion from older people
to vulnerable children will continue to blight our country,” he

Promising to make the recruitment and retention of social workers a
“far greater priority”, Kennedy warned that any such move must not
be at the expense of quality and called for training opportunities
to be more readily available once staff were in post.

“A report published earlier this month showed that only 2 per cent
of social services budgets were spent on training for current
social workers,” he said. “This prevents social services from being
at the cutting edge of new practices and information

He also acknowledged that pay was neither the only reason staff
felt undervalued nor the only way to boost morale, and has
previously advocated an extension of the starter home initiative
for key workers and the introduction of other housing or transport
allowances as alternatives to higher pay.

Kennedy said eliminating the “constant interference from central
government” was another key way to improve working conditions. He
described the government as “obsessed with centrally imposed and
centrally regulated targets” and promised that a Liberal Democrat
government would decentralise public service provision and allow
“local people and professionals greater freedom to run public

According to the Liberal Democrats’ new policy paper Quality,
Innovation, Choice
, one way of achieving this would be to
deliver public services through non-profit distributing
organisations (NPDOs), including voluntary and charity providers,
that would make money but then re-invest it in service provision
rather than use it to pay share-holders.

The paper, due to be debated at the conference, states that NPDOs
could help to engender greater community support for local
providers, as well as having the advantage of a workforce committed
to its task because it feels a sense of ownership over the
institution it works for.

Also included in the policy paper are the Liberal Democrats’ plans
to end the division between health and social care in England by
running local services through a single authority with a single

To increase the effectiveness of social work intervention, it
proposes guaranteed “personal care plans” for all care users, drawn
up with the case worker, relevant professionals and other family
members to achieve agreed goals for various points in their lives.
These plans would, in turn, be linked to new “personal health
plans” and “education passports”.

“We are keen to stress the importance of social care to health
improvement, so would wish to ensure that any partnership
emphasised the importance of care closer to home so that social
services are not dictated to by the health service,” Kennedy

Another area that Kennedy would like to reform is children’s
services. Although not wishing to pre-empt the outcome of the Lord
Laming report on the Victoria Climbi’ Inquiry, Kennedy said that he
would like to see area child protection committees given greater
authority and power.

“We would like to see ACPCs put on a statutory footing to ensure
multi-disciplinary working between all departments – be it health,
social services, education and justice – so they can work together
to provide the maximum protection for vulnerable children,” he

He also repeated calls for a children’s commissioner for England to
co-ordinate, monitor and promote issues affecting the rights and
interests of all children under 18, as well as older care

– Quality, Innovation, Choice from

– See next week’s issue for coverage of the Liberal Democrats’
annual conference. For a full transcript of the interview with
Charles Kennedy go to

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