Pickles told to keep social care duties by sector

Social workers and sector leaders have told ministers to retain councils' duties to assess and provide social care, in response to a consultation - ordered by communities secretary Eric Pickles (pictured) - that proposed abolishing them.

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Social workers and sector leaders have told ministers to retain councils’ duties to assess and provide social care, in response to a consultation that proposed abolishing them.

In March, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) outraged MPs, social work leaders and peers when it launched a consultation seeking to slash the duties placed on local authorities, including those in social care.

Responding to the consultation, which closed yesterday, the College of Social Work said social workers were “mystified” by the proposals. “They argued forcibly that social work-related duties had emerged over years of democratic debate and that any repeal would leave vulnerable people and the community at large at great risk,” it said.

Matt Dunkley, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, also backed the retention of duties. He said they provided the levers and accountability for directors to fulfil their role on vulnerable children.

In a letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles, Dunkley said: “It is not the duties which are superfluous or burdensome, but the weight of guidance and regulation associated with them.”

The Adass chief argued the guidance could restrict directors who tried to meet their responsibilities creatively. He called for a final decision on any changes in children’s social care to be made after Eileen Munro reported on her review of child protection next month.

Social workers were also concerned about the possible abolition of duties to carry out child protection investigations or to accommodate children whose families cannot support them, said the College. These were essential for ensuring children’s safety.

In addition, they opposed removing any duty to assess adults who may need community care services or for approved mental health professionals to consider requests for mental health assessments.

According to the College, social workers believed the abolition of these duties could lead to the transfer of current statutory functions to the private and voluntary sector. “Local authorities were given these duties to ensure a co-ordinated and holistic response to people in need, while independent sector organisations usually focus on a more limited remit,” said the College.

Meanwhile, the Disabilities Charities Consortium, which comprises seven major disabled people’s charities including Mencap and Scope, said the DCLG exercise itself failed to explain the functions of the duties.

“As a result people are being asked to decide whether some duties should be repealed without understanding the implications,” the consortium said.

It added that the consultation was “a waste of resources” because of Munro’s review and the Law Commission’s review of adult social care law, which is also due to report next month.

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