Staff see an end to social services departments

Almost three-quarters of people working in the social care
sector believe social services departments will not exist in their
present form in five years’ time, whoever wins the election, new
research carried out by Community Care shows.

The survey of 200 local authority and voluntary sector staff
working across all sections of social care revealed that just 16
per cent of those surveyed believe the overall effect on social
care was worse under the current Labour government than under the

However, only 45 per cent are willing to commit to voting Labour
next week compared with 63 per cent in the 1997 General

Almost a third of respondents are still undecided who to vote
for, and 7 per cent say they will not vote.

However, if the Conservatives claim an unexpected victory, a
quarter of local authority social services staff would be less
likely to remain in social care, the findings show. The impact
would be less dramatic in the voluntary sector, with 13 per cent
more likely to leave social care if a Conservative government is
elected. Half of all respondents believe that the circumstances of
service users would get worse under a Conservative government.

While two-thirds of those surveyed believe the current Labour
government is committed to social care, a third believe it has made
it harder to perform daily tasks, predominantly due to lack of
funding and increased paperwork.

Labour’s refusal to promise free personal care for older people,
as recommended by the Royal Commission on the future of long-term
care, is considered to have been its most harmful policy decision
in relation to social care, alongside the introduction of the
performance assessment framework for local authorities.

However, more than half of the respondents feel that none of
Labour’s policies have been harmful. Quality Protects was voted its
most popular policy by more than a third of respondents –
reinforcing findings of a second Community Care survey
published last week which found that 80 per cent of social workers
working with children and families considered Quality Protects the
most effective of the government’s child welfare initiatives.

Director of the British Association of Social Workers Ian
Johnston said that he was not overly concerned about the predicted
demise of social services departments as the services they provided
would remain essential even if the structures changed.

He dismissed fears that social workers’ roles could become lost
within larger departments or new organisations, predicting that
social work would in fact become stronger and more independent once
the General Social Care Council and associated regulatory
frameworks were up and running from October.

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