Behind the headlines

 Alan Milburn’s message at the National Social Services
Conference in Cardiff earlier this month was typically forthright:
he wanted to “dramatically reshape the old, monolithic, single
social services departments”.

It was another push towards a future in which health and adult
social care are brought still closer together by means of the
Health Act flexibilities and powers to set up care trusts, while
more children and families services are enfolded in the arms of
education in a new generation of children’s trusts.

Commissioning children’s trusts will be based in local
authorities, but with powers to commission health as well as social
care. Provider trusts will be able to harness the skills and
resources of the community, voluntary and private sectors.

As Milburn told conference delegates: “The one-size-fits-all
approach embodied in the traditional social services department may
have been OK in the 1970s, but as more and more councils are
recognising, it does not belong to today.”   

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“I am haunted by T S Eliot’s Love Song of J Alfred
Prufrock: ‘And indeed there will be time… Time for you and time
for me/ And time yet for a hundred indecisions/ And a hundred
visions and revisions/ Before the taking of toast and tea.’ Promise
reform. Pump in the money. But time is in short supply for the
beaten child or dying patient.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“I welcome the idea of children’s trusts, though we need
to be a bit clearer about how they will fit in with Connexions and
other existing services for children and young people. Currently
there is an appalling chaos in dealing with young people’s needs
because there is no co-ordinated response. Children’s trusts have
the possibility of creating a one-stop shop for meeting children’s

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social
care, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
“The starting point of Milburn’s message was that social
services have failed to adapt to the changing nature, needs and
demands of society. I think he’s got a point. If the consequences
of that are that we need to provide more specialist, proactive
services to meet the higher aspirations, more universal but complex
needs of people today, then that feels right. Our struggle will be
to guard against the potential gap into which the most needy and
vulnerable people and their communities may fall without our more
‘generic’ support.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“Doubtless Alan Milburn means well, but his approach is a
blunt instrument for dealing with a fine-grained problem. Under the
guise of modernisation, he is offering yet more top-down
implementation and even more structural change – strategies
associated with only limited success. What is needed now is a
lighter but tighter focus upon local policy and provider networks,
and how to improve their effectiveness. Hierarchical solutions are
as jurassic as market solutions.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“Milburn’s incisive delivery is always impressive and much
of what he presented at the conference made sense to me and was
welcome. My main concern is that he does not display a grip on the
complexity of the daily tasks confronting social workers and the
range of skills and knowledge required to deliver them. The jury is
out as to whether all the potential new social work recruits
apparently now coming forward will pursue their applications when
they realise the responsibilities and reward packages awaiting
them. The new vision of catch-all family care worker risks reducing
multidisciplinary tasks and support to a common denominator – this
is hardly inspirational.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.