Tony Hunter is the president of the Association of Directors of
Social Services. He speaks to Amy Taylor
about the possible new roles for social workers proposed in the
adult green paper.
One of the new roles for social workers in the adult
green paper is that of care navigators. This group will have
knowledge of mainstream and specialist services, help people to
decide how to spend their individual budgets and put them in
contact with services. Aren’t people in frontline services
already doing this?
I think there is a skill set there that the best social workers
are using now. What’s different is helping people to use
money that has actually been allocated to them.
The green paper says that it no longer wants social
workers to be perceived as gatekeepers of services but there is a
tension in trying to achieve this. If the assessment for
eligibility is separate from the commissioning service, the
assessment is ill informed but if they are combined the service
user doesn’t think the assessor is on their side. How can
this tension be overcome?
Again without wanting to dismiss this at all, those tensions are
already there because social workers and care managers are working
within ever tighter budgets. Good social workers are approaching
that tension now because they are pushing for the best for the
client. I think some social workers would find that insulting
[being perceived as gatekeepers] because they would argue that they
are doing everything that they can.
The document also mentions care brokers who would
negotiate the amount of money people are entitled to. What skills
will they need to have?
They will need to be people that know what’s happening in
the community and know which agencies are going to be able to
All of these models involve power being take away from
social workers and being given to service users. Do you think
social workers will find it difficult to give this up?
I think it has been a cultural change for all of us at all
levels in authorities. The green paper says people are responsible
for taking their own risk and that does need cultural change.
Workers are not going to let go until they feel they are supported
by their managers if something goes wrong. We must make sure that
we develop more sophisticated risk management systems.