Behind the Headlines

The recent ministerial reshuffle was a watershed for government
policy-making on children’s services. Margaret Hodge was appointed
to the post of children’s minister in the Department for Education
and Skills with a new broad brief including responsibility for
children’s social services policy, previously the province of the
Department of Health, and family policy, previously in the Home

Sure Start, Connexions, the Children and Young People’s Unit and
children’s social services are being brought together in a children
and families directorate within the DfES. Hodge’s background
includes previous roles as chairperson of Labour’s task force on
policy for under-fives and her ministerial responsibilities before
now have encompassed child care andnursery provision.

The children’s green paper, dueto be published within a fortnight,
will reveal more about the government’s vision of services. But
education secretary Charles Clarke said the new ministerial
arrangements would help to break down the barriers between

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Margaret Hodge’s portfolio allows better joined-up action for the
UK’s youngest citizens. And moving the post from the Home Office
means their chief advocate no longer has to trumpet crime and
antisocial behaviour in their day job. But there is still no
mention of independent scrutiny through setting up a children’s
rights commissioner in England. Perhaps the children at risk green
paper will surprise us still further and bring this about as well.
Dream on.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield Institute
for Health, University of Leeds

“On balance this is a welcome development. Central government could
not urge localities to work in ever closer partnerships, when its
own responsibilities for children were spread across so many
different departments. The growth of children’s trusts will lead to
a strengthening of ties between social work and education which is
long overdue; the post-war distinction between education and care
should never have been allowed to become so pronounced. The
dangerous cleavage now is between children’s and adults’ services,
and the transition into young adulthood must be given greater

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social care,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

“It’s a brilliant way forward for services for children. I
particularly like the approach to supporting vulnerable children
and their families through a universal service like education. This
sets a completely new policy context and potential for access
through localisation. Not sure about social workers in schools –
that seems like a rather simplistic notion, but the concept of
multidisciplinary teams is definitely the right way forward.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the

“I welcome the appointment. There is a desperate need to
co-ordinate services and to break down barriers that have existed
between education and social services. I am sure that this top
level government reorganisation will herald a shake-up of the way
in which services are managed and organised locally. It is my view
that this change will move us nearer to the welcome demise of
social services departments in their current form.”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers

“The creation of the ministry is a welcome step forward but will it
be more than musical chairs? Margaret Hodge takes on a role for a
government that has one of the worst records in the EU for
defending children’s rights. Whether the organisation will be
‘child-focused’ or service provider-focused will depend on the
minister’s determination to ensure that young people have an
effective voice. This means built-in structures to promote the
views of young people as service users at all stages of service
delivery and policy creation.”

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