Behind the headlines

A year has gone by and still it is too early to pass judgement
on the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Its first chief
executive, Ray Jones, left after a disagreement about his pension.
Now it has fallen to newly-appointed Bill Kilgallon to raise the
profile of Scie and begin to make an impact on social care.

Kilgallon, who takes up the chief executive’s post in
January, says gathering the views of service users will be his
priority. Much of the first year of Scie’s existence has also
been devoted to canvassing views, mainly through the series of five
“listening exercises” to which users, carers and practitioners
contributed. But Scie has made little progress so far in meeting
the main part of its brief, establishing a body of knowledge to
form the basis of evidence-based practice in social care.

Part of the problem is that there is no general agreement on
what counts as “evidence” in social care and how much of it can be
codified as a database of “what works”. Yet Scie will have a vital
role in reassuring the public that social care is a genuine
profession. Kilgallon’s challenge is therefore immense.

Bill Badham,development officer, National Youth
“I have left the Children’s Society. The hardest
goodbyes were with everyone at the disabled young people’s
project, Pact. We shared wonderful memories of their determined
campaigning for disabled people’s rights, including at
Community Care Live. But as Lucy, the boss, said, young
people need to see change. What hasn’t happened for them is a
change in their situation regarding friends, social life, education
opportunities and money. If none of that changes for them, then
what is the point? Scie’s in-touch-with-the-people approach
is welcome but the big challenge is for better standards to lead to
better services. Good luck!”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the
“The idea behind Scie is sound, but the performance to
date has been lacklustre and there has been little in the way of
achievement to show for the first year. The departure of Ray Jones
over pension arrangements did not help to instil confidence in the
organisation’s leadership, or suggest that it was a very high
priority with government. In the next year the organisation needs
to make a tangible impact and significantly increase its profile.
If it does not achieve this, it will have been a waste of scarce

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“What Scie needs to avoid is to ape the National Institute
for Clinical Excellence model that takes a narrow, clinical view of
what constitutes ‘evidence’, and has ended up in
dispute with patient groups. Social work is not like medicine and
interventions are about much more than ‘treatment’.
Taking a broad view of what is evidence and balancing rigour with
relevance and accessibility for professionals, users and carers,
will be the key challenge for Scie.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“There already is a significant body of knowledge,
experience and research about very vulnerable people, which
practitioners can draw on in decision-making. There is also some
custom and practice that can rest too much on individual
preferences rather than on evidence. The challenge for Scie is
about credibility and about authority; experts and practitioners
need to be heard, but Scie needs to have sufficient power to draw a
line in the sand about what is good practice and expect it to be

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“Spreading best practice is difficult when this government
blatantly ignores the fact that it has just been slated by the UN
for its attitude toward children. While it remains politically
easier for Blair to bomb the helpless Iraqi people than to put
right suffering at home, the target of Scie for spreading best
practice has to be a major change in government attitudes and

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