Councils should be free to appoint joint strategic directors for children’s and adults’ services rather than having two separate posts, according to a report by the Improvement and Development Agency.
Think family, think community, based on interviews with ten joint directors, concluded that the model worked well for the councils that used it, many of which were rated among the best in the country for children’s and adults’ services.
It found joint directors spent about 70% of their time working on children’s issues and reported reduced bureaucracy, a more family-centred approach and better knowledge sharing on issues such as safeguarding and transition. But they concluded the dual role involved a significant workload.
Releasing the report yesterday, Andrew Cozens, strategic adviser for children, adults and health services at IDeA, told delegates at the National Children and Adult Services Conference that the trend for joint directors was not increasing but was one of a range of models available to councils.
“We are not evangelical about the joint approach but it should be the right of councils to choose,” he said. “They should be judged on outcomes not on the way they are structured.”
Local authorities are required to have a nominated director of children’s services and a director of adult social services. About 10% of authorities have combined the roles into a single post but some councils have said that the government is not supportive of the idea.
Several delegates reported that the Department for Children, Schools and Families had been reluctant in discussions about joint directorates, despite the successful inspection results achieved by those already in existence.
Cozens also said that Liverpool Council had recently adopted a joint approach and North East Lincolnshire Council was considering it but Middlesbrough and Surrey had abandoned it.
Jim Gould, director of learning and care in Windsor and Maidenhead, added that when he retired in a few months his council would be reverting to separate directors. The decision was taken because of lack of “management capacity” rather than problems with the approach, he said.