Behind the headlines

It looks as though 2004 is set to be an eventful year for social
care. On the legislative front we can expect a new children’s bill
and also new legislation on mental health and, probably, mental
incapacity. There is also to be a review of the laws on
prostitution, the first for 50 years. Areas to be considered
include the merits of tolerance zones and new ways to help women
escape the vice trade. This year also sees the full implementation
of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 which is aimed at making
child welfare paramount in all decisions on adoption. In the spring
the government will publish a white paper on its proposals for a
single equality and human rights commission. This will replace the
Equal Opportunities Commission, the Commission for Racial Equality
and the Disability Rights Commission. Meanwhile, the government has
pledged to continue pressing ahead with tightening up rules for
asylum seekers. In the face of all this promised activity we asked
our panel their hopes and fears for the coming year and also the
sort of headlines they would like to see.   

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“The headlines I’d like to see in 2004 would be ‘Health and social
care finally fully integrated for all’ or perhaps ‘Government hits
targets on child poverty’. As for my hopes and fears for social
care, I have no fears! The fact is that social care services, in
the public, voluntary and private sectors, are all flourishing and
will continue to evolve and become more effective. Now the acute
sector in the NHS is beginning to hit its targets, we’ll see
primary and community-based services flourish alongside social
care. Going into 2004 Iam as optimistic as ever.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“In 2004 I want to believe that every child really does matter.
That needs a government that speaks with one voice and applies the
same principles to all children – including children in custody,
children seeking asylum and privately-fostered children. The
minister for children and young people must become a member of the
cabinet and the children’s commissioner should report to
parliament. Also we need to get the attention we have been promised
on the role and status of social workers and foster carers.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and

“Home care is in crisis. The service is underfunded, poorly
regulated and the staff are undervalued and neglected. The
government must face up to the fact that many of their objectives
for health and social care will never be achieved until we have
professionally structured, properly resourced and nationally
consistent home care services. We need to see joined-up action, not
just joined-up rhetoric.”

Karen Squillino, children’s service manager,

“I would really like to see the headline ‘Sex offender legislation
overhauled’ followed by an article on how children and young people
who commit sexual offences would in future be treated as children
first. The story would set out how radical, forward-thinking and
child-centred legislation is to ensure that young people convicted
of sexual offences are treated fairly in future. It has finally
been recognised that they are not mini adults and need legislation
that takes into account their status as children and young

Bob Hudson, professor of partnership studies, Health
Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham

“2003 was the year when the Seebohm settlement finally fell apart.
2004 is the year when the voice of social care needs to be strong
and consistent, otherwise it risks marginalisation. Whether it be
in new partnerships or new structures, the social care role remains
vital. There is nothing to fear from change as long as social care
is clear about its contribution and confident in its
professionalism. Look to the future, grasp the opportunities and
become leaders not followers.”

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