‘Social care should be in the mainstream of public services’

Andrew Cozens is no stranger to challenges, having spent a decade as a social services director as well as a year as president of the Association of Directors of Social Services. Cozens, Andrew

But the scope of his new job, as strategic adviser for children, adult and health services at the Improvement and Development Agency, is huge by anyone’s standards.

Cozens is undaunted, telling Community Care in his first week in the post that there is a “natural link” between the three areas.

One of his major tasks will be to show how social care can be a mainstream service rather than for people at the margins. “I have always been clear that social care should be in the mainstream of public services and if it does not embrace that it runs the risk of providing services for fewer and fewer people,” he says. “This job will require me to put my money where my mouth is.”

Cozens, who was previously social services director at Leicester Council, adds: “If education, social care and health need to be repositioned as preventive services with people being more involved in their communities, and we increase the range of services in children’s centres, then it is not just health that is responsible for making people better.

“At the moment we view these services as discrete. But if we are not careful the preventive side will become peripheral and we could end up with a situation where we are preoccupied with targets. Children’s services could end up bubble-wrapped, which is risky.”

Cozens will contribute ideas on how government departments can support councils to implement policy, while at the same time lobbying for developments in policy with organisations such as the Local Government Association. He will also work on health issues  with organisations such as the Care Services Improvement Partnership.

“Councillors and managers are trying to make sense of a range of agendas,” he says. “Part of my job is to help government assist councils to take these on without feeling they are always starting from first principles.”

His team, which already runs a leadership academy for lead council members who have taken on the children’s brief and may develop similar models for adult social care and public health, is also responsible for identifying and supporting best practice. Cozens will also work with individual councils, offering tailored support where it is needed.

“The big issue for councils at the moment is structural change, and councillors and chief officers are focusing on developing new departments in a tight financial round,” he says. “What I will be doing is helping with the safe transfer of services into these new arrangements.”

Some social services departments are struggling to meet the demands of radical restructuring while keeping up with the improvement agenda. Star ratings published by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in November showed that adult services were improving faster than children’s services.

Cozens says children’s services faced a “tougher test” this year as they implemented Children Act 2004 reforms, so it is not surprising they have made variable progress. But he points out that adult services will soon face their own tough test in the shape of the forthcoming white paper on social care and health.

“We must not lose sight of what’s happening at the front line,” he says. “People are coming together around this policy agenda and we now need to see that it is not a case of one world view being right over another but that we need to create a whole new world view.”

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.