Open Forum with Ray Jones

This is the week that the annual social services star ratings are announced. We have all been challenged by the Commission for Social Care Inspection not to “coast”. But, to continue the maritime analogy, there are storms ahead and many of us are swimming in choppy seas.

First, the map for social care and its major partners is being redrawn. For adult social care, one of our major partners – the NHS – is being battered by winds of change. Primary care trusts were still being tested when in August they were told that bigger ships were to be built, and that they would not provide services. But we were told later that perhaps they could still be service providers. And the strategic health authorities, which are to lead the changes, are themselves facing a redesign, along with hospital and community NHS trusts which must become more
independent foundation trusts.

Amid this, the NHS is making a fast run for financial balance with £700m to be saved by April.

The implication for adult social care is that partnerships are being challenged by the nationally driven change in the NHS, and costs continue to roll towards adult care services.

For children’s services, the education white paper proposes that schools will be able to set their own course. But for those children who have been struggling to stay on board already,
their advocates in children’s social care services and in the local education authorities could be distanced from the schools, despite the positive initiatives of children’s centres and
extended schools.

It is within this context of uncertainty for social care’s major partners that  the government must recognise and fund the contribution that social care can make to the wider agendas of
social inclusion, enhancing children’s and disabled people’s life chances and quality of life, and tackling disadvantage. This must be reflected in future inspections and star ratings.

Ray Jones is director of adult and community services at Wiltshire Council and is deputy chair of the British Association of Social Workers

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