High hopes for joined-up services as new children’s minister is appointed

Children’s charities have welcomed the appointment of a minister
for children, believing it will result in more joined-up services
for children and provide a clear voice for children within
government .

The radical change will see former higher education and lifelong
learning minister Margaret Hodge take over responsibility for
children’s social services from the Department of Health and lead
the implementation of the reform agenda to be set out in the
forthcoming green paper on children due to be published next

Still based in the Department for Education and Skills under the
direction of education secretary Charles Clarke, Hodge’s new
responsibilities will also include Sure Start, early years, child
care, Connexions, the Children and Young People’s Unit, the Teenage
Pregnancy Unit, family and parenting law and support, and the
Family Policy Unit.

The move follows calls from Victoria Climbie Inquiry chairperson
Lord Laming for a ministerial children and families board at the
heart of government chaired by a minister of cabinet rank, and for
improved co-ordination.

Chris Hanvey, director of UK operations for children’s charity
Barnardo’s welcomed the move, adding that he hoped it would “be the
end of the turf wars between government departments over children’s

Association of Directors of Social Services president David Behan
agreed that the decision to move children’s social services to the
DfES would ensure greater co-ordination and coherence in the

However, there were concerns about the future relationship between
the new division within the DfES and those parts of children’s
policy that remain outside the department, particularly youth
justice. “The appointment of a minister for children is balanced by
the fact that the overall responsibility for children is still
split,” Hanvey said.

Chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau Paul Ennals
added: “For too long, Home Office policy has been out of step with
other government approaches to children.”

Ennals went on to question how the new department would maintain
strong links with children’s health services, which will remain at
the Department of Health, and said the National Service Framework
for Children would now need to be developed jointly between two
government departments.

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