Anne Bristow analyses the implications of the green paper for social services

Anne Bristow

The green paper in the end contained few surprises, most of its key
points having been trailed in recent months. Certainly there is
much to welcome in it. Its ambition to bring together police,
health, social services and education professionals in new
partnerships will help to make the protection and safeguarding of
children everyone’s business, writes Anne

 A Children’s Commissioner for England is an important
step forward. Key to its success will be the ability of the
commissioner to engage with children and young people. Much useful
work is already being done by children’s rights services
which hopefully will provide local links. It is important to use
tools such as the internet, and initiatives such as the web-based
Carezone for looked after children currently developed by the Who
Cares? Trust with local authorities including Haringey playing a
crucial role. 

New children’s director

The proposal to introduce a director of children’s
services, children’s trusts and new multi-disciplinary teams
has the potential to improve co-ordination of services at a local
level. Although there appears to be some scope to develop local
solutions that meet local needs which is welcome, the timetable for
implementation (2006) leaves little time to learn the lessons from
the experiences of the 35 pilot trusts that are just getting

Within local authorities there will be a real challenge for
children’s social services to maintain their profile within
merged departments. It is important though that we remember that
whilst structures can help or hinder the delivery of good quality
services they do not guarantee them. More important are clear
practice standards supported by good training and development and
effective performance management systems.

Extended schools

The proposal to develop fully extended schools with
multi-disciplinary teams based on site offers an opportunity to
realise the potential of these important community resources. But,
there will be a number of hurdles to overcome if this is to succeed
as not all families will fit neatly into one learning community (or
even engage positively with schools). Individual schools will need
to relinquish some of their control in order to make the new
partnerships work, and I anticipate that more decentralised teams
will require more resources to support them. 

Improving information sharing must be right and the removal of
legislative barriers by the government is an important step
forward. But, we should not underestimate the technical
difficulties of achieving this – not even every GP in one
locality uses the same system let alone the 150 local authorities
nationally. The scale of the task to track every child across all
agencies is significant and particularly challenging in large
cities such as London with very mobile populations. If we are to
succeed where other information sharing initiatives have failed
this will not only require investment but determination across the

Finally, getting the right people to choose careers working with
children is central to safeguarding children and there has been
much debate about how to raise the status of this work and attract
and retain high calibre individuals. The focus on this issue in the
green paper is therefore very welcome. What is however
disappointing is that, at this stage, government support for people
to enter social work or to return to the profession does not appear
to be the same as has been provided for teaching or nursing. I
would hope that more will emerge from the proposed Children’
Workforce Unit and Sector Skills Council, for without enough of the
right people doing these key frontline jobs we cannot deliver the
services our children deserve.

Anne Bristow

Director of Social Services with Haringey


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