Care services minister Phil Hope has pledged to ensure that the government’s Social Work Taskforce focuses as much on practice in adults’ services as children’s services.
Hope said the impact of the roll-out of personalisation on adult social work would be a key issue for the taskforce, which starts work this month.
The taskforce is designed to boost the status and quality of the profession, and improve recruitment and retention. It covers adults’ and children’s services, but its announcement last month came as part of a children’s workforce strategy and was placed in the context of the government’s response to the Baby P child protection scandal in Haringey, north London.
However, Hope (pictured) pointed out that Camden Council chief executive and former Association of Directors of Social Services president Moira Gibb, who will chair the taskforce, had a background in adult social work.
“I will be making sure that adult social services and adult social work feature in the taskforce’s work,” he said.
The challenges of personalisation for adult social work were highlighted by a Community Care survey of 600 adult social workers published last October. This found a significant knowledge gap, with only 17% fully understanding the concept of personal budgets. Nearly 60% of respondents thought the number of social workers practising in adult services would decline from 2008 to 2011 as the Putting People First agenda to personalise care is rolled out.
Hope said progress on the implementation of Putting People First, including personal budgets, the development of universal information and advice for all service users and a shift in resources from critical to preventive care, was “patchy”.
“The question over the next two to three years is getting consistent change through the system,” he added.
Regional deputy directors
He praised councils’ commitment to the agenda but said the recently appointed deputy directors of social care – Department of Health officials stationed in each English region – would monitor progress.
Hope said the DH still planned to publish the green paper on the long-term reform of adult care and its funding this spring, which would include possible funding models. If a consensus emerged behind any proposal, he added, the government would decide whether to produce a white paper or legislation to implement it. But he admitted the timetable would be affected by the next general election, due by 3 June 2010.
Hope promised that the green paper would not be affected by the economic downturn, despite Labour’s pledge to tighten public spending increases for 2011-14, when any reform is likely to be implemented.
“The green paper will be published at a difficult point in the economic cycle,” he said. “But I don’t think that should unduly affect what should be a long-term settlement.”
Hope admitted that campaigners would have been “disappointed” by the DH’s failure to publish the national dementia strategy last year. “We wanted to get the detail right and do a thorough response to the consultation,” he said. “It’s now in much better shape.”
Hope added that the DH’s forthcoming strategy on mental health, to replace the 10-year national service framework, which expires this year, needed to focus on “building mentally healthy communities”, not just mental health services.
It is speaking to stakeholders to develop the strategy, dubbed New Horizons. A consultation paper is expected this year and the final strategy is due by early next year.
The year ahead for adults’ services
Early 2009: Publication of national dementia strategy and delivery plan for the Valuing People Now learning disability programme. Announcement expected on roll-out of registration to home care workers.
Spring: Publication of green paper on reform of adult care funding, followed by three-month consultation. Care Quality Commission starts work as integrated health and adult care regulator.
Summer: Social Work Taskforce to report.
End of year: Decision expected on whether to follow green paper with legislation on funding reform.
Also this year: Consultation on mental health strategy decision on whether to legislate on safeguarding adults, and revision of No Secrets guidance.