Training chief blasts lack of social care expertise in health department

The “decimation” of the Department of Health’s social care
knowledge base has left it reliant on the sector’s national bodies
for policy assistance, Skills for Care’s chief executive has
claimed, writes Mithran Samuel.

Andrea Rowe said her organisation, the Commission for Social Care
Inspection, the General Social Care Council and the Social Care
Institute for Excellence were regularly called upon to answer
parliamentary questions and instruct civil servants on social

The exodus of social care specialists from the DH has a number of
causes. Several transferred to the Department for Education and
Skills when it took over responsibility for children’s social
services in 2003. Others departed with the abolition of the
DH-based Social Services Inspectorate, while the department, like
others, has been subject to swingeing cuts as a result of the
Gershon efficiency review.

Rowe said civil servants with a health background were working on
social care policies, but some had little understanding of the

The other three bodies played down their role, saying they did not
contribute directly to policy and only answered or helped with
parliamentary questions relating to their work.

But other social care leaders endorsed Rowe’s claims.

British Association of Social Workers professional officer Bridget
Robb said: “We are very concerned that there’s a serious lack of
expertise about social care services [in the DH]. We are just
really grateful that [the four bodies] are there.”

West Sussex social services director John Dixon put a more positive
gloss on the situation, saying it reflected the DH’s increasing
willingness to listen to the sector.

A DH spokesperson said: “The department strives for a close and
productive working relationship with a range of outside bodies.
This work is, of course, in addition to the professional policy
work that the department is engaged in as part of its normal

Social care leaders also met DH heads last week in the first
meeting of a forum intended to give the sector a bigger voice in
government decisions.

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