Sixty Second Interview with Liam Byrne

Sixty Second Interview with Liam Byrne                                                                                                       Liam Byrne

A survey carried out by Community Care of almost 1, 000 staff found that 56 per cent of social care professionals were unaware of the planned white paper on health and social care. Does this concern you and do you think that more awareness raising work needs to take place amongst professionals?

Regional listening events on the integrated White Paper have already been held in Gateshead, Leicester and London, with another in Plymouth next week (10 October).  These will feed into a major national event for up to 1,000 people that will take place on Birmingham on Saturday, 29 October.   We are also encouraging health communities and Local Authorities to support local consultation events for the public and staff.  We are determined to engage frontline staff in shaping the White Paper and genuinely want to listen and learn about what they think.

So far feedback has been very positive but we would welcome more responses. Members of the public and staff can also complete an on-line questionnaire at .   So far more than 5,000 people have completed the questionnaire, many of them health and social care professionals and people have until 4 November to respond to the consultation.

You can also find out more about the consultation via

We have developed a resource pack for NHS bodies, Local Authorities and voluntary organisations (available at that will help them with the organisation of local events. This includes a feedback form so that the results from local events can also be fed into the national event in Birmingham.  Since launching the resource pack on 14 September more than 1000 people have been given access to the web site and so I am confident that a greater number of colleagues in the field are now aware of our proposals.

Do you have a time frame for when the combined social care and health white paper might be published?

The closing date for the White Paper consultation is 4 November 2005. Results from it will feed into a White Paper to be published at the turn of the year. This will serve as a blueprint to help people be at the centre of their own care and to live as independently as possible.

How are the individual budgets pilots going?

The individual budget pilots will test a range of income streams, such as the independent living fund and supporting people grants, over and above council-provided social care services.  The dozen or so selected sites will reflect a range of these income streams, will be geographically diverse and will involve a mix of council types and performance levels.   Pilots will also cover a range of client groups, including older people, people with physical disabilities or sensory impairments, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health needs.

The first pilot, in West Sussex County Council, will focus on older people and will begin in December this year.  The remaining sites, which will be selected shortly, will being in 2006 and continue for between 18 months and two years.

The programme of pilots is being developed with input from a research and evaluation team.  This will ensure that the pilots give us the evidence we need.

The adult social care green paper aims to enable adults to have more control over their lives and calls for a ‘more open debate about risk management and what it means’. How do you plan to bring about this debate and will the white paper look at the issue of risk?

The responses to the Green Paper consultation confirmed what we thought – that there is a great deal of interest in how you give people more choices and opportunities, while at the same time making sure that they and their communities are not put at more risk from harm as a result.  We are currently considering the options for how this issue should be tackled.

What will be your priorities over the next 12 months?

I have been working with my officials to develop a comprehensive and coherent work plan for the next 12 months and my key priorities are giving people a flying start in the world, helping them live independently and ensuring they have dignity for life. I want to see our maternity and children’s services develop strategies and a proud and professional workforce that ensure better quality services.

Through the forthcoming White Paper I want to empower people to stay in control of their lives and stay in their own homes –  if this what they want to do.  This will include work on Individual Budgets, exploring the potential of telecare and ‘smart’ homes and learning from our prevention pilots.

I will be working to reduce care staff shortages and develop and improve the skills of the existing workforce. I want to see more partnerships developing between statutory and voluntary sector organisations so that we can deliver more cohesive services. And I want to see health and social care working together more effectively and delivering improved services.

The DH’s Commissioning a Patient-Led NHS  says that there needs to be improved co-ordination between social services and PCTs by aligning boundaries but the Association of Directors of Social Services says that proposals in the document on restructuring PCTs to make 15 per cent savings were likely to lead to smaller PCTs being merged despite the fact that many share the same boundaries as, and have strong links with, councils. What do you think about this policy conflict?

Co-terminosity is a great benefit. But it’s not always right – sometimes that could create PCTs that are too large. Equally, it’s very important to get them to the right size to support strategic commissioning. We have asked Strategic Health Authorities to propose boundaries in discussion with local stakeholders including Local Authorities. Where they propose large Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), they will need to show how partnerships will be retained and developed. Where they propose small PCTs, they will need to show how NHS commissioning will be strengthened. 

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.