Surrey Council will maintain its pioneering merged adults and children’s services department despite inspectors finding the “radical restructuring” that created it damaged children’s social care in the county.
That was the message from its new interim family services director, Andy Roberts (left), in the wake of a highly critical joint area review (JAR) led by Ofsted.
Roberts’ predecessor, Andrew Webster, resigned ahead of the publication of the JAR, which found that the provision of safeguarding of disabled children and overall capacity to improve were inadequate.
The family services directorate was launched in January 2006, recombining children’s and adults’ social care, along with education and youth services.
The review said the move had a negative impact on some key service developments, “especially in children’s social care”.
The JAR was released as more authorities – at least 11 – have followed Surrey’s lead in bringing together children’s and adults’ services, to provide a sharper focus on families (www.communitycare.co.uk/108929).
Roberts said the authority needed to simplify the structure and recruit more senior managers. He also promised more investment in workforce development. He said the overhaul initially created “turbulence among staff” but denied vulnerable children were being marginalised by the sheer size of the department.
“Children at the more vulnerable end are looked after well,” he said. “It’s the children on the verge of accessing the system we need to sharpen our focus on.”
Although inspectors praised services for children, they found the range of preventive services “too limited”. Cases were unevenly allocated and nearly one in 10 looked-after children was without a social worker.