New president set to offer strong lead

Andrew Cozens, the Association of Directors of Social
Services’ president-elect, tells Community Care editor
Polly Neate that he is motivated by the desire to lead
staff through the maze of change.

Even at a time with no structural upheaval or major legislative
change in social care (and when was that?), the role of president
of the Association of Directors of Social Services is a tall

You have to act as a lobbyist, campaigner, spokesperson for your
profession and for social services departments, and composer of
policy proposals, alongside a formidable day job as a director of
social services. You can’t possibly please everyone, for as
new president Andrew Cozens admits: “ADSS always struggles
with, on the one hand, those who dismiss us as vested interests of
senior managers, and on the other hand, those who feel there has
been a vacuum where the voice of social care should be, who have
very high expectations that we can’t always meet.”

The challenge is made harder as Cozens takes over the presidency
by the threat the children’s green paper poses to the role of
director of social services, by proposing a statutory director of
children’s services, and by the related likely demise of
social services departments. This in turn, coupled with the
decimation of the social care civil service at the Department of
Health and the, as yet, unformed structures at the Department for
Education and Skills, threatens to undermine the identity of social
care as a distinct discipline. This is even before the new
institutions to safeguard it – the General Social Care
Council, Social Care Institute for Excellence, and Commission for
Social Care Inspection – have properly established

Not short of answers

With all the questions surrounding the future of his association
– and even his profession – it is lucky that Cozens is
not short of answers. He has been talking to staff in his own
department (Leicester) about what they look for from an ADSS
president. “They want a road map through what is a very
confusing time professionally and organisationally,” he

They also want someone to bang a drum for social care, something
Cozens is used to doing. “Being in a new council, a director
has to argue about why have social care and social services. Staff
say, make sure we are valued for what we do, that there is
something distinctive about social care.”

Finally, he believes front-line workers look to the ADSS to be
on what he calls the “inside track”, influencing
policy. With his reputation as a consummate networker, and his own
admission that his activism in the ADSS is partly fuelled by a
desire to “see round corners” and to influence what he
finds there, Cozens should be just what they need.

He accepts the severity of the threat facing social care, if the
government’s drive to improve specific services, irrespective
of which profession delivers them, is not informed by a close
understanding of the specific contribution of social care.

Cozens believes that the ADSS must work closely with other
stakeholders – the GSCC, Scie, CSCI and the Local Government
Association – to help the government with a “big
idea” for the future of social care. “Has there ever
been a better time to be championing social care, when there are so
many other people to support you in that?” he asks.

His inaugural speech as president, delivered this week, will
“make a pitch for social care as a mainstream service so that
a future for social care in local government is assured, not
absorbed by education or the NHS”. He explains:
“I’m going to call for the abolition of the poor law
framework of services and its replacement by a statutory duty of
well-being. This would involve a different configuration of social
care services so that you get it right for everyone.” It is a
step forward from the paper launched this time last year by the
Institute for Public Policy Research,1
sponsored by the ADSS and Community Care, but a step in the same

Like that report, he argues for some radical beliefs about
structure that seem a long way from current government thinking.
“I’ve always been attracted by the idea that public
health has its natural home in local government not the NHS.”
Many in social care would agree. But would many ministers?

An idealist

Cozens is an idealist, and not easily daunted. “The shadow
of the poor law has hung over us at every turn. Seebohm’s
ideals lasted until the money ran out and then we fell back on poor
law habits like rationing and eligibility criteria, dividing the
deserving from the undeserving. The Children Act 1989 was distorted
and became a means of screening people out. The community care
legislation was the biggest false dawn. It took a really good idea,
which was freedom and creativity for social care staff to use money
to tailor individual packages for a relatively small group of
people, and became a national framework for rationing access to
residential and nursing home care.”

He cites an example from his own experience. As an assistant
director in Harrogate when community care was first implemented in
1993, he masterminded an initiative in which everyone using home
care got a spring clean. “But we did it once, and after that
it was about battening down the hatches and turning people

But will his ideals ever come to life? He knows he needs to make
alliances, adding modestly: “It needs some big brains, bigger
than mine, to make it work.”

He knows it is an even bigger ambition than the key objective of
his most recent predecessors as ADSS president, which has been to
improve social care’s public image. That, according to
Cozens, is not enough. “Where does social work and social
care fit into society? We have to work out what social work is
there for. That’s critical if we are fighting our corner in
the DfES and DoH. You could either roll over and say, this is the
end of social services departments, or see this as an opportunity
for social care values to influence mainstream services and
reinvent social care as a major force.”

Forget the sceptics

His dramatic talk contrasts markedly with the cautious public
pronouncements of his immediate predecessor David Behan. Cozens
doesn’t seem to look over his shoulder much. In fact, he is
prepared to ignore some critics, having already been slammed in two
Daily Mail editorials when director of social services in
Gloucestershire – “think mad, then do it” being
the most memorable criticism of his management. “I’m
not sure how much time we should waste trying to convince the
sceptics,” he says.

It’s tempting to draw a link between his idealism and the
formative experiences he uses to explain his choice of a social
work career and his continuing commitment to its ideals. Both
Cozens’ parents died when he was young – his father
when he was 13, his mother while he was at university, both after
long illnesses during which he and his siblings were carers.

The second experience he cites came later in life. He was
working hard, “trying to be the perfect social worker,
driving myself into the ground, in a place where there were very
few other services, so I was trying to offer the level of support
that people wanted”. He was pulled up short by a diagnosis of
testicular cancer and found himself in hospital, next to a fellow
patient who had a more advanced illness and was too traumatised to
consent to his operation. Staff were struggling to communicate with
him because he had a learning difficulty, and Cozens became an
impromptu advocate. Certainly a salutary lesson on the importance
of social care skills in an NHS setting.

Then he was director of social services in Gloucestershire at
the time of the infamous Gloucestershire judgement, which allowed
the withdrawal of services after redrawing of eligibility criteria
and reassessment of need. “That’s the thing I most
regret professionally,” Cozens says. “Not because it
wasn’t the right thing to do, but because it slammed the door
shut on the possibility that that piece of legislation could meet
all the aspirations of disabled and older people. It legitimised
social care being framed by financial considerations.”

Surely the root of many of his ideas is obvious when he adds:
“Part of my motivation is to put that right.”

1 L Kendall and L Harker (eds), From
Welfare to Wellbeing, IPPR, 2002

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