Debate on what Labour has done for social care

We asked:- Have things improved for the social care
profession under New Labour?

These are some of the comments we received.


Phil Clarke

“I would say that there has been a huge amount of legislation
that New Labour has bought in which, on the whole, has been very
forward thinking, such as Valuing People.

However, there has been a lot of duplication and confusion
around strategies like Transitional Housing Benefit to Supporting
People, National Care Standards etc.

If the government would really listen to service users and
implement what they said they wanted rather than being caught in a
place between “duty of care” and enablement then they would do a
lot better.

There needs to be less red tape and more real action. IN CONTROL
and other such projects are a step in the right direction. There is
too much of a gulf between politicians and the social care
profession (people on the ground not those in strategic positions
who have probably lost grip on what the actual work
Matt Dore

“As a specialist advocacy worker for people with learning
difficulties and people with mental health issues, it has been a
case of the government producing policies which have resource
implications to improve the everyday lives of our client groups
only for the ‘initiatives’ to be either thwarted or ignored by
local authorities with an agenda led by ‘performance related
targets’ set by the same government.
An example of this is the way in which more service users now have
to pay for their care staff’s travel and subsistence if they need
care staff to go with them on ‘outings’ – this came about as a
direct result of the government’s desire to implement
person-centred plans which gave people the ability to increase

At the same time, however, the government also implemented
‘fairer charging’ guidelines for charging for care which gave local
authorities the ability to make these charges – in the past,
service users who had identified care needs would have them paid
for by the local authority.
I have recently represented clients at tribunals where they were
appealing against the refusal of disability benefits wherein the
Department of Work and Pensions (the ‘old’ social security) had
either refused outright or lowered benefit entitlements because
they had ‘decided’ the person concerned was no longer ‘disabled’
At one appeal, I was called back in and told we had been turned
down even though the tribunal ‘would have liked to have helped but
felt constrained by the rules’ and I have found this sort of
‘acting under orders’ mentality is prevalent in social care
What has been clear is that the government is saying one thing, and
doing another.
They are making the lives of people who often have complex
disabilities, worse rather than better by cutting entitlements to
benefits with one hand and forcing/enabling local authorities to
make charges which worsen the situation of the person
Local authorities have less money to supposedly do more and what
some are choosing to do is use the systems handed down to them by
central government to disempower disabled people so that the local
authority can ‘hit’ its financial targets.
But central government can then point the finger and say ‘its not
our fault, we just hand out the guidance and it is up to local
government how they do things’ which ignores the realities of the
financial pressures they bring to bear in other ways.
At the end of the day, the only people who suffer/lose out are
service users.
A prime example of this is direct payments for people to control
their own care.  Central government made it a policy change some
time ago but the implementation is in the ‘control’ of the local
authorities in each area and so instead of service users being able
to exercise control, power still remains in the hands of social
services who are more likely than not going to be unwilling to give
up their power.  Net result.  No change there then.  Service users
0 – Local director of social services 10.
Mist and spin identify this government.  These examples are not
exhaustive and yes things can only get better – but perhaps not
with this government.
We advocate but they only listen when they want to and from where I
stand, this government only ‘values’ its own people and not the
ones to whom we provide support and what is worse, they talk the
talk, which encourages people, but then certainly does not follow
through by walking the walk of the road to empowerment.”

Chris Close
Advocacy Manager

“I work in the child protection function of a local

Firstly, I have received several pay increases and the starting
salary in my area is several thousand pounds higher than it was
five years ago when I qualified.  So this is clearly an

Regarding the nature of the job and the amount of bureaucracy,
it seems churlish to complain since colleagues in education and the
police force are experiencing the same.  This has worsened, as far
as I can see, across the board.

I do not think that the government has done much to support a
profession that is the whipping boy of the public sector.  
However, I do think that there has been a historic lack of
investment both financially and ‘morally’ in child protection and a
tendency to make policy ‘on the hoof’ to the occasional high
profile child death.  This aspect of governmental culture has not
changed noticeably. 

I do think that there is a failure to understand what child
protection social work is and that it carries powers and duties
that other forms of social work do not.  Change is endemic but is
not led from government.  This leads to attempts to anticipate and
guess what shape children’s services are meant to take.

Clearly the government has done much to improve children’s
services in general, but I feel that child protection seems to be
marginalised in this process.  Morale remains fragile, the work is
emotionally demanding and the sick rate is still high.  My question
is what price is a quality child protection system, funded and
valued by government?  Where is the vision?  Does the government
still take the view of Paul Boateng that Children’s social services
have failed children year in and year out?”

Nick Reeve
Child Care Social Worker
Portsmouth Council.

“I have no doubt that social workers in the child care
sector will say that we have a run down service, with energy and
resources focusing upon the IT systems and data gathering (and
considerable social work time spent on inputting information).
Additional pressures are placed upon the field workers to meet the
targets for performance indicators, whilst preventive work and
family support continues to decline. The initiatives for early
years do not reach those children most in need.
Children, families and childcare social workers know that things
have not “only got better” since New Labour came into

Lin Pollard


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