Wales’ first minister yesterday hinted at reducing the number of senior management teams in social services departments by merging directorates in smaller authorities with larger councils.
Rhodri Morgan floated the radical proposal in a speech to the National Social Services Conference in Cardiff, organised by the Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru.
Savings would improve services
He explained that the reforms would benefit service users in Wales as the money saved on managers’ salaries could be invested in frontline services.
The first minister told delegates: “Just because we have 22 local authorities in Wales do we necessarily need 22 separate social services departments?”
Geographical boundaries could be relaxed
Morgan stressed that he was satisfied with the way social services were currently delivered, with single directorates covering children’s and adult services.
Although the number of local authorities would stay the same, he explained that geographical boundaries could be relaxed regarding certain functions.
This was in line with the Welsh government’s collaboration agenda, he said, which is designed to drive up the efficiency and quality of care.
Structure “not citizen-focused”
“Smaller local authorities have the same management structure as bigger ones, with a director, senior managers, a lead member – that leaves a lack of resources for the frontline.
“They’ve started from the wrong end, by sorting out political accountability and governance, and then services for clients. It’s not a citizen-focused way of running things – the clients should always come first.”
Deputy minister: collaboration is key
The proposal echoed comments made earlier in the conference by his Welsh government colleague Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services, who said local authority social services departments should be looking to collaborate “as the norm rather than the exception”.
In her speech to the National Social Services Conference, Thomas urged delegates to deliver “confident and assertive practice” across Wales.
But she added that in order to achieve the necessary improvements, “we cannot go it alone”.
Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru