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We will regret the lemming-like rush to destroy the Association of Directors of Social Services, warns Terry Philpot

The slow demise of social services departments has claimed its first victim with a lethal blow to the Association of Directors of Social Services, which will give way by the end of this year to two bodies for directors of children’s and adults’ social care.

On the face of it, this seems to make sense. After all, the ADSS arose from a particular moment in history – the Seebohm reforms. But what appears to be an administrative move disguises a fundamental fact: common values underpin any profession or service and, in social care, they are part of its identity in a way that few other services can demonstrate.

The argument against creating two separate bodies is more than just an argument for a united voice; it’s an argument to try to preserve a voice that could become drowned by others. The children’s body will be dominated by chief officers drawn mainly from education into whose shadow children’s services are being drawn. The adult social care body’s members will be responsible for a service where health calls the shots and which is overseen by a Department of Health where social care has been increasingly sidelined.

But why this split anyway? After all, doctors have a generic body in the guise of the British Medical Association and nurses do not belong to separate bodies depending on the types of patient they work with. Instead, specialisms are catered for by specialist sections. So in the context of a wider vision of social care shouldn’t there be an all-encompassing body?

The ADSS arguably enjoys a status and influence disproportionate to its elite membership mainly because of the weakness of the British Association of Social Workers and the Social Care Association. But far from increasing influence, this lemming-like rush to destroy the single body could weaken that which it already has. And as is often the case, a loss for social care tends also to be a loss for those who use it.

Terry Philpot is co-author of Coping and Caring. A Guide to Social Services

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