Milburn’s radical reform spells end for ‘monolithic’ social services departments

Social services departments will be broken up and replaced with
“new local partnerships” under radical reforms announced by health
secretary Alan Milburn last week.

Speaking at the national social services conference in Cardiff,
Milburn outlined a range of initiatives to “dramatically reshape
the old monolithic, single social services departments”.

He told the conference:”The one-size-fits-all approach embodied in
the traditional social services department may have been OK in the
1970s, but as more and more councils are recognising, it does not
belong to today.”

He set out plans to create specialist children’s trusts to “plan,
commission, finance and – where it makes sense – deliver”
children’s services.

Commissioning trusts, which would be based in local councils but
have the power to contract services to the voluntary and private
sectors, would also be entitled to commission health care.

The first wave of trusts is likely to begin next year and will be
backed by new legislation.

Although not initially compulsory, the government anticipates that
pressure for reform will make realignment inevitable.

Incoming president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services David Behan predicted that the trusts would be popular if
they helped integrate services locally. “My guess is that people
are going to want to move forward with children’s trusts pretty
quickly,” he said.

Milburn also appeared to be blowing hot again on care trusts –
particularly for older people – announcing plans for a new national
integrated care network to encourage and support uptake.

He added that he “expects” to see health and social services in
every part of the country pooling resources and skills to deliver
“seamless” services for older people within two years.

Milburn also asked the General Social Care Council to develop a new
professional post to reflect the changing shape of the social care
profession and announced that the proportion of the social services
budget that is ring-fenced would reduce from 17 per cent this year
to 9 per cent by 2005-6.

– To view a webcast of Milburn’s speech see 

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