Clarke reassures social care it will not lose out to education

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Charles Clarke

Education secretary Charles Clarke went to great lengths to
reassure social services officers and councillors that
children’s social services would not lose out to education,
financially or otherwise, writes Lauren
Revans.

Speaking at the National Social Services Conference, Clarke said
he was aware of the concern about the power of the school lobby,
but was “absolutely determined” that children’s
social services budgets would not be affected by the move of
children’s social services to the Department for Education
and Skills.

He also pointed out that social services had not been immune to
competition for resources when based in the Department of Health:
“Hospital waiting lists have been just as important to
politicians a target as school standards.”

Clarke said he hoped the Queen’s Speech at the end of
November would give a commitment to a “short bill to deal
with some of the headline issues” in the ‘Every Child
Matters’ green paper on children in the next parliamentary session,
including accountability arrangements and information sharing.

He acknowledged the difficulties around improving information
sharing and promised to legislate to remove barriers, insisting
that “significant changes” must be made.

“I have seen examples where failure to share information
(in child protection services) has been literally fatal. So we have
to say information sharing has to be the right thing to
do.”

To the relief of many in the audience, Clarke said it would be
“foolish” to take a “one-size-fits-all”
approach in relation to children’s trusts, acknowledging that
different areas would have different needs.

He said education and children’s social services would
form the core relationship of all children’s trusts, but
that, beyond that, how other services were involved would be
determined locally, adding that to be any more prescriptive would
have been “destructive rather than constructive”.

However, he said it was important to agree on the principles and
work together. “We have a difficult path to walk. But the way
through is to agree the principles then talk maturely about how to
put it into effect in each location.

“From my point of view, the faster the better. From my
point of view, as consensually as possible.”

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