Social services take on wider role as councils combine departments

More than two-fifths of social services departments in England
are now combined with other services, a Community Care
survey has revealed.

Of those departments with a wider remit, half are also
responsible for housing, a third for health and a handful for
housing and health.

More unusual combinations include Havering’s community
services department in east London, which covers leisure and
culture, cctv, emergency planning, revenue and benefits and social
services. East Riding of Yorkshire’s department of social
services also includes housing and public protection. And at
Blackpool housing and environment have been added in.

Only half of the individuals with lead responsibility for social
services have retained the traditional title of director of social
services, while a further fifth are directors of social services
and at least one other service.

Nearly 30 per cent of former social services director posts have
been extended to include more of an overview role and been given
new titles, including strategic, executive or corporate director.
Three directors now also head a local primary care trust.

Eight of England’s 150 upper-tier local authorities have
scrapped their social services departments altogether and replaced
them with departments for adult social services and departments for
children’s social services.

From next year, Essex Council will join Brighton and Hove,
Milton Keynes, North East Lincolnshire, Peterborough,
Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Wiltshire Councils in
splitting their services, and Rochdale Council is planning a
similar move.
Of the eight that have already been split, at least three have
combined their adult services with housing. Others have moved their
adult services closer to health. Seven have combined their
children’s services with education to create new children and
schools departments, most of which are led by the former directors
of education.

But Bury Council has removed education from its personal and
community services department and appointed a director of social
services, health and housing and a director of education, deciding
the job was too much for one person.
Plans to change posts to more strategic and less hands-on roles
have prompted the departures of some directors as have plans to
split departments.

But Jeni Bremner, the Local Government Association’s
programme manager for education and social policy, said the
findings proved that local authorities were reacting to local

“What this demonstrates is that local government is
thinking flexibly about the provision of services and acknowledging
the wider agenda,” she said.

Bremner added that it was unclear whether the move towards
combining children’s social services and education services
amounted to a step towards the new children’s trusts
mentioned in chancellor Gordon Brown’s comprehensive spending
review as it was still unclear how the new trusts would work.

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