Paper talk

Not since the publication of the Children Act 1989 has there
been a government document with such potentially radical
implications as the green paper on children.

There has been a lot of speculation about the paper’s contents but
we at the Association of Directors of Social Services are clear
about what we want to see.

Firstly, we want the paper to be about ALL children, and to provide
a way for our society to value and respect children. We believe the
most effective way to support and protect vulnerable children is
through well developed and strong universal services, and coherent
services focused on prevention and early intervention.

We hope the paper will establish an effective approach to the
co-ordination of services, ensuring a “whole system” approach to
service delivery, focused on the child and their family, and on the
“journey” of the individual child at any point in time.

To do this we believe the government should provide a clear
framework for the provision of services to vulnerable children,
with strong national standards and an integrated approach to the
inspection and monitoring of those standards.

We would look to the green paper to propose a new statutory duty on
all agencies (the police, NHS and local authorities) to take
responsibility for providing services to support and protect
vulnerable children, and to co-operate in doing so at a local level
(as well as nationally). We hope that this is achieved through the
establishment of a local statutory multi-agency body to oversee the
provision of such services. These bodies should replace all other
partnerships for children which currently exist.

We want this to be supported by a requirement to jointly commission
children’s services, through simplified funding streams and options
such as pooled budgets. We believe discretion should be given as to
how services are organised and managed locally in order to achieve
the standards set nationally.

We hope that the models already being developed through the
Serving Children Well document1 and children’s
trusts are promoted in the green paper. We hope the paper contains
an expectation that services are provided through locally based and
co-ordinated multi-agency and multi-disciplinary approaches that
are located within local communities. We want local services,
created at local level, with local vision.

None of these aspirations should come as a surprise, and they
reflect much of what we’ve been promoting in social services
departments across the country. We are confident that the
government shares many of them. What, however, might the green
paper contain that would concern us?

Firstly, we are concerned that the green paper will confuse
accountability with management, and that it will focus on
requesting organisational change at a local level, rather than on
creating functional and cultural change. We want the paper to
propose that councils appoint a statutory, accountable chief
officer to ensure that things happen, and take responsibility when
they don’t. We would not want the government to decide who that
should be. We know that “one size fits all” does not create the
most effective local service.

Secondly, we are concerned about how the green paper will address
the challenge of the workforce issues we are all dealing with. Will
it propose an over-simplistic approach to an immensely complex
issue? Will it create a monolithic approach to the provision of
professional training and development, or will it provide a strong
platform to improve on the near crisis we face in social work. Will
it seek structural solutions rather than seek new models for
workforce development? Will it look to rigid compliance-based
approaches rather than developing new approaches to the acquisition
of common training and knowledge across a diverse professional

Finally, however, we are concerned that the paper will look at
public service organisations and the adult world, and in doing so
will fail to create a revolution in the way in which British
society views children. To be a radical approach, it will need to
be based on a foundation of respect for children and young people,
combating the view that children are either saints or sinners. An
approach to children that values and does not stigmatise, that is
ambitious for all children, and protective of those who need extra
support – that would be a true revolution.


1 Local Governmetn
Association, ADSS, NHS Confederation, Serving Children Well:
A New Vision for Children’s Services
, LGA, 2002, see


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