The government is reviewing the current statutory guidance which makes directors of children’s services and lead members accountable for the protection of children in their area.
The move comes in the wake of several councils deciding to no longer have a stand-alone director of children’s services.
Following the death of Victoria Climbié in 2000 all councils had to nominate a statutory director of children’s services with responsibility for children’s social care and education. It was to try to stop buck-passing of responsibility when ensuring the safety of children.
However, according to the Local Government Chronicle, almost 30 of England’s 152 top-tier and unitary councils either have structures deviating from this or plans to adopt such structures. Many are moving to combine the DCS role with that of director of adult social services while others have separated education from children’s social care. Some are proposing shared services with a single director of children’s services across two or three councils.
A DfE spokesperson said: “All guidance is time-limited. We want to make sure this guidance is as useful and relevant as possible to the sector. Given the rapid changes in the children’s services landscape we are talking to local authorities about how we might review this guidance to ensure it is still relevant.”
Marion Davis, past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “We know that many authorities are examining their management structures, whether for financial or operational reasons. This is therefore an appropriate juncture to review the statutory guidance relating to the role of the director of children’s services to ensure that a clear and publicly visible line of accountability is maintained within local authorities for services for children and young people.”
The review follows the Department for Local Government and Communities consultation on all council statutory duties including those around the duty to investigate child protection concerns. It has sparked fears among the sector that the government could move to make it easier for councils to outsource all parts of their children’s services departments.
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