Labour manifesto signals end of social services departments

Social services departments may have moved a step closer to
extinction with the publication of the Labour party’s election
manifesto, just days after the passing of the health and social
care bill confirmed the introduction of voluntary care trusts,
writes Lauren Revans.

The document, published, makes only one direct reference to
“social services” in its 44 pages – and even that is in the context
of healthcare.

“By 2004 all local healthcare will be organised by primary care
trusts run by frontline doctors and nurses,” the manifesto states.
“Together with the new care trusts, combining health and social
services, PCTs will control 75 per cent of NHS funding.”

Unlike their public sector colleagues in the medical, nursing,
policing and teaching professions, social workers also fail to make
Labour’s list of key frontline staff whose powers and numbers need
to be boosted.

Moira Gibb, president of the Association of Directors of Social
Services, welcomed the manifesto’s focus on improving public
services, but added: “I hope that the tone of the campaign will be
one which makes public servants think they are part of the solution
and not part of the problem.

“I hope too there will be recognition that the NHS is more than
‘doctors and nurses’, and that social well-being requires more than
health care and education. Then the contribution of social services
and social work might feature.”

As predicted, the manifesto does commit the Labour party to a
minimum wage of £4.20, targeted tax cuts for families and
pensioners, 1,000 more adoptions a year, winter fuel payments, an
extension of the direct payments scheme, an extension of Sure Start
and the New Deal schemes for young people and people with
disabilities, benefits and social care services for carers, and
free health care for all at the point of use, including nursing
care – but not personal care – in all care homes.

The neighbourhood renewal strategy action plan’s targets and
funding promises published in January are repeated in the
manifesto, as is the commitment to help 10,000 “keyworkers” buy
their own homes in high-cost areas to tackle recruitment

The manifesto also promises the development of an “effective
infrastructure” to support voluntary working, and outlines greater
responsibility for local authority councillors and officers.

“We want to combine additional rights and resources with
responsibility and reform, working with councillors and officers to
develop the structures, services and finances to help local
communities,” it states. “We have worked with local government to
establish clear targets for standards of service; and to offer
incentives for service improvement and innovation. Partnership with
the voluntary and private sectors is key.”

During a second term in office, Labour would roll-out the local
performance service agreements scheme, currently being piloted by
20 local authorities. This would entitle all upper-tier local
authorities to commit to achieving tough targets in return for
access to a £400 million reward fund and greater financial
flexibility if successful.



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