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 Andrea Rowe has claimed,
writes Mithran Samuel.
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
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
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 Department of Health heads last
week in the first meeting of a forum designed to give the sector a
bigger voice in government.