Exclusive:- SCIE could take over DoH agencies

Ministers have signalled their intention to overhaul the Social
Care Institute for Excellence by proposing to transfer over to it
responsibility for key Department of Health agencies,
writes Derren Hayes. 

The proposal – agreed in principle by Scie pending
assurances from the DoH that its fundamental remit will not change
– will see the integration into Scie of the seven health and
social care programmes that make up the Care Services Improvement
Partnership (CSIP). These include the National Institute for Mental
Health in England, the Valuing People Support Team and the Social
Care Change Agent Team.

It would involve the legal transfer of around 150 staff and
£30 million of government funding, with targets being
established by a service level agreement. The CSIP programmes would
be mainly run from NIMHE’s existing eight regional

Community Care understands that ministers have been
unimpressed with Scie’s progress since it was set up four
years ago, feeling that it has too little profile and, according to
one government source, living in an “ivory-tower”.
Taking on the CSIP would give it more “power and clout”
and enable it to disseminate best practice information more
effectively by tapping into CSIP’s regional network.

The move has also been prompted by the efficiency drive in the
DoH and the low priority social care currently has in the
department. Officials hope the transfer will give Scie more
influence in negotiations with the NHS. Merging seven separate
agencies into one should also enable better commissioning of

However, the proposals have prompted fears that Scie could be
swamped by a group of health agencies which could dilute its social
care focus. Greater ties with government could also undermine its

A senior academic said: “There is a danger it could become
a government-run think-tank, with its role to disseminate
government thinking on best practice.”

But Scie chair Jane Campbell said the institute was determined
future work would be governed by the same evidence-based and
user-led criteria as before, and that maintaining Scie’s
independence and focus on social care would be paramount.

The proposal is expected to be formally announced next week by
community care minister Stephen Ladyman and consulted on until
January. If agreed, the merger would be completed by April 2005.
Other programmes covered by CSIP include the National Child and
Adolsecent Mental Mental Health Services Support Service, the
Integrated Care Network, Integrating Community Equipment Support
Team, and Change for Children.

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