Stoke-on-Trent council has sparked concern after announcing it is to scrap its children’s services director role and merge adults’ and children’s services.
In a statement issued yesterday, the authority announced that the current director of children’s services, Sharon Menghini, will leave at the end of March to help the council “develop its management structures to provide for a ‘people directorate’”.
Tony Oakman, the authority’s adults services director, will lead the development of children and young people’s services and adults and neighbourhood services into a people directorate.
He will be supported by an interim children’s services director during the transition period, which the authority expectes to take “some months”.
A spokesperson for the council was unable to confirm any more details and said no further comment could be made at this stage.
In her review of child protection, published last year, Professor Eileen Munro advised the government to protect the discrete functions of the director of children’s services position (DCS) in every local authority.
One social worker said: “This is a worrying sign. Munro specifically said the DCS role was important and should be protected. Is this just about cutting costs?”
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), said BASW has “strong reservations” about councils’ ditching the DCS role.
She queried whether the move could present an opportunity for the authority to better integrate children’s and adults’ services, but admitted this was unlikely.
“Ideally, what social workers and others would like to see from this move is a much closer integration between adults’ and children’s services, but sadly we know that is not the driving force for this change,” she said.
Stoke would not be the only local authority to consider such a move.
Last year, a survey of 58 councils by the Association of Directors of Children’s Services found a third have either scrapped their DCS role or are planning to change it.
One-third of councils have no children’s director