Care delivery ‘may go to volunteers’

The voluntary sector could soon take over the delivery of all care
packages to children, delegates were told last week.

Rob Hutchinson, director of social services at Portsmouth Council,
said the shortage of local authority child care social workers
provided a “huge” opportunity for the voluntary sector to get more
involved with service delivery.

In Portsmouth, nearly one in five social work jobs are unfilled in
the children’s department, with the slack taken up by more
expensive agency staff.

Hutchinson envisaged recruitment and retention problems, resulting
in social workers focusing mainly on child assessment work, setting
and reviewing care plans and providing wrap-around care management
services. Rehabilitation work, support and care packages would be
purchased or commissioned from the voluntary and private sector and
other council departments.

Hutchinson, former chairperson of the Association of Directors of
Social Services’ children and families committee, said: “If we can
get the money we can start commissioning services from the
voluntary sector on an individual child basis.”

Portsmouth has started commissioning more front-line work to family
centres and mentors, with pathway planning potentially being
carried out by Connexions and the young people’s support team.

Despite concerns from front-line staff that such a change in
working practices would eliminate direct contact, Hutchinson said
assessment was not just an administrative role. “Assessment relies
on face to face contact, but procedure and paperwork are increasing
and it is a huge challenge to get the balance right.”

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