Edinburgh services set to merge

Edinburgh Council was due to vote this week on proposals for the
creation of a new department of education, children and

Council chief executive Tom Aitcheson said that, following
consultation on the four options put forward in December (news,
page 10, 18 December), he favoured a merged department led by a new
director of education, and children and families.

A new department of health and social care will also be created,
led by a director with responsibility for most of the council’s
social work agenda and the development of links with health

This new appointment will be made by the council with Lothian

The council’s chief social work officer would be based in the new
health and social care department, but operate across education,
children and families too.

In his report, published last week, Aitcheson said the new
education, children and families department, to be established
within 12 months, would be “truly new” and would require
“completely new structures”. He insisted that it would not amount
to “bolting on” areas of social work to existing education services
and that social work skills would have a key role to play.

However, a cross-party children and family’s scrutiny panel heard
last month that there was little evidence that major structural
change was needed in Edinburgh.

In a written response to the proposed changes, chief social work
officer Duncan MacAulay said the proposal for greater joint working
between the council and Lothian Health was “consistent with
proposals already agreed in the joint future local partnership

But he added that it was imperative that work already under way on
priority modernisation projects including ICT replacement and child
protection reforms was not impeded “due to the diversion of
management resources to management change”.

Front-line workers are also anxious about the proposed changes.
“It’s very unsettling,” one said. “If there are flaws in a system,
I cannot see how changing to another system can address them. It
seems we are at risk of walking away from them.”

Merged departments already exist in Stirling, and Perth and
Kinross, and directors of children’s services will be introduced
throughout England under the Children Bill.

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