Child protection reforms will be thrown off track by plans to merge
Edinburgh’s children’s social services and education services,
public sector union Unison has warned.
Despite protests from Edinburgh social workers, the council’s
cabinet committee agreed last week to replace the council’s
education and social work departments with a children and families
department and one for health and social care, led by two separate
But Unison branch secretary John Stevenson said the move would mean
that “a good deal of child protection work” under way before and
after the O’Brien inquiry into the death of Caleb Ness would have
to be restarted from scratch, resulting in “new procedures, new
working links, new unfamiliar systems”.
He said: “When we are meant to have our eye on the ball in terms of
child protection, we are going to spend time dividing up offices,
dividing up computer systems, losing the ability to share
He added that the major issue in child protection work was lack of
resources and problems of staff recruitment.
“Reorganisation won’t fix that. In effect. All the diverted effort
will make it worse,” he said.
Ruth Stark, professional officer at the British Association of
Social Workers Scotland, described the decision as “appalling”.
“The council have not listened to the views of the professionals
from the chief social work officer down,” she said. “How will this
split in departments improve communication and the delivery of
services? It does not make sense.”
The changes were voted in on a Conservative-led amendment to
explore a proposal that the new health and social care department
should be given trust status.
This had not been suggested in the run-up to last week’s vote, and
any such move would have major implications for employees and the
accountability of services.
Stevenson warned that, with trust status, democratic accountability
would be lost. The council would have little influence over the way
a trust would be run, he added.
Changes to employee status, meanwhile, would be of particular
concern to mental health officers, who are required by law to be
independent of health departments.