Profile of Harrow Council’s director of children’s
Paul Clark is Harrow Council’s first director of
children’s services but he when he took up the post 18 months
ago he was no stranger to working in a combined role having
previously been doing so for three years as deputy director of
children, schools and families at Hertfordshire Council,
writes Amy Taylor.
With the ‘Every Child Matters’ agenda and more recently
the Children Act 2004, children’s services professionals have
been faced with many policy and structural changes and Clark sees
his job as to steer them through this.
“If you look at what’s been written about the adult
job and the children’s job the word leadership was about a
lot. It’s about trying to give people a sense of direction
and that sense that things are do-able,” he says. Clark adds
that directors also need to help to turn the policy into practice
and to give professionals a sense of ownership over the new
Harrow has taken a practical approach to creating a
children’s trust to achieve integrated services rather than
creating a legally binding arrangement.
“The council wants to take a joint approach but, because
of pressures on the finances of the council and the primary care
trust, rather than hop to a legally binding arrangement we are
carrying out some practical ways of working,” says Clark.
This happens through co-location of staff from health and
children’s services, particularly in the borough’s
children’s centres, and a joint commissioning strategy
between the local primary care trust and children’s services.
The council is also just about to create a children’s service
commissioning unit staffed by professionals from both camps.
Clark says that although there is no legal arrangement on pooled
budgets, there are agreed protocols on the way money is spent such
as for disabled children who have a high level of need and require
a number of services from health, education and social
The government wants professionals to stop working in silos and
work together more closely to improve children’s wellbeing.
Clark sees achieving this cultural change as a two stage process
involving strategic changes and engaging professionals through
practical ideas on how they can work together.
He says he has gone about this in a number of ways such as by
making changes to the internal management structure within the
council and by creating practical projects which engage
professionals from a number of agencies. “So you can see
touch and believe that something has happened,” he
Another way Clark tries to achieve the change is by actively
taking part in a number of agencies outside children’s
services such as sitting on the professional executive committee of
the PCT where he is currently looking at creating a
children’s centre approach to the front of house services of
a local hospital.
He is also chair of the local Safeguarding Children Board and
the children and young people’s strategic partnership. The
partnership is made up from key partners who work with children,
including the council; the police; health services and the
voluntary sector, and is involved in working towards the five
outcomes contained in the children’s green paper, being
healthy, economic wellbeing, staying safe, enjoying and achieving
and making a positive contribution, and developing work on the
children’s National Service Framework.
Under the Children Act 2004, health services and the police,
together with other agencies, have a new duty to safeguard children
and to cooperate with the local authority to improve
children’s wellbeing. Clark says that in Harrow the borough
commander and the chief executive of the primary care trust were
already highly committed to children’s wellbeing but that the
duty has made the police and health services as a whole more
“The difference it has made is that it has given a little
bit of push and oomph to the level of engagement across
agencies,” he says.
In line with the green paper’s requirements, the council
has also created multi-disciplinary teams, such as its transitions
group. This is made up from a mixture of professionals, including
the youth offending team and the leaving care team, working with
young people in transition and has links to a host of other workers
such as mental health professionals and health visitors.
“That’s very different to 18 months ago when they would
have been in separate groups,” says Clark.
Clark’s approach is to bring about the change practically
and gradually rather than having a “big bang” in order
to get staff on board.
The council will be integrating the green paper’s other
key measures, the common assessment framework and the lead
professional role, into its children’s services later this
There are seven school clusters within the borough, each made up
of around 10 primary and secondary schools, and the common
assessment framework will be piloted in one of the clusters before
being extended to the whole area. Clark says that the benefit of
this approach, which originated in Telford and Wrekin Council, is
that it involves professionals that are already used to working
with each other.
Under the Children Act 2004, as well as a director of
children’s services, every local authority in England must
have a lead member for children’s services in place by 2008.
Harrow Council is set to appoint someone to this position after the
local elections next year. There are currently two councillors that
cover children’s services, one with the education portfolio
and one with the portfolio for social care and health, who Clark
meets up with regularly.
Clark argues that one of the major issues for councils will be
how much the division of adult and children’s social services
affects the rest of the local authority’s services and points
out that some directors of children’s services have extra
services incorporated into their role, such as leisure. “I
think it’s where councillors have got to think what’s
right for our community,” he concludes.
Name:- Paul Clark
Job title:- Harrow Council’s director of
Role:- Giving a sense of common purpose to
different professional groups so that we focus on the benefits to
children rather than the benefits to the service.
Salary:- Circa £100,000
Time in job:- 18 months
Responsibilities:- Statutory responsibilities
for protecting children
Budget:- Excluding the schools budgets because
they are ring-fenced it’s about £40 million.
Staff:- Excluding school staff around 350.
What partnership boards or bodies do you
chair?:- The local Safeguarding Children Board, the
children and young people’s strategic partnership and the
child and adolescent mental health service.
Background:- Social services