No room at the top

Is there such a thing as social care in the minds of ministers and
senior government officials?

Or are there children’s services, older people’s services, mental
health services and so on, encompassing various professions and
perspectives – among which only medicine, teaching, nursing and
policing have an identity that transcends structures?

There is evidence that the government understands the values and
importance of social care as a distinct discipline. The General
Social Care Council and the Social Care Institute for Excellence
indicate a commitment to a distinct profession with its own values
and knowledge-base.

But where do the values and knowledge-base reside within
government? In the Department of Health – where they are being
dismantled as the number of social care posts is cut by two-thirds;
a far higher proportion of cuts than the one-third across the
department as a whole.

Although new local structures herald the demise of social services
departments – which, for all their faults, have been the power base
of social care – we need more evidence within central government
that the profession is equipped to respond to the constantly
evolving web of cross-government initiatives.

With children’s services set to leave the Department of Health, the
decimation of social care has an internal logic.

As Community Care has argued before (editorial comment, 27
March), the new-look department fits a world without social
services, in which children’s services are run by local
partnerships accountable to councils and nationally to the
Department for Education and Skills or a new children’s ministry.
We await the cabinet reshuffle for more clues, as Community
goes to press.

It also fits a world where social care’s identity dissipates faster
than it can be shored up by the GSCC and Scie.

There can be no doubting the strength of the voice of the newly
appointed shadow chairperson of the independent Commission for
Social Care Inspection, Denise Platt. But what social care needs is
a voice at the heart of government – and soon.

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