Replacing the Care Services Improvement Partnership

After nearly four years’ service, the Care Services Improvement Partnership is about to close its doors. Anabel Unity Sale talks to the social care champions who will replace it

When one door closes another one opens, so the saying goes. The Department of Health is hoping this really is the case because on 1 December the door is slamming shut on the Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP).

The DH is dismantling the arm’s length agency and, according to those involved, is replacing it with a bigger and better way of ensuring the government’s social care and health policies are delivered and implemented in England.

Lack of awareness of CSIP

In some quarters the end of CSIP may be greeted with a collective shrug of “so what?” given that many in social care do not understand what the organisation does. A Community Care survey in November 2005 revealed that just 22% of respondents were aware of its and its remit. But some local authorities will be disappointed at its demise having benefited from its help and advice.

CSIP was launched in 2005 with a budget of £39m from the DH to support the local delivery of health and social care policy in England. Initially it oversaw seven social care and health programmes, including the National Institute for Mental Health in England (Nimhe).

Now it is responsible for just three programmes – in addition to Nimhe – in social care, including support for the personalisation agenda as set forward in Putting People First children and families and health and social care in the criminal justice system.

Two months ago, Glen Mason, the DH’s director of social care, leadership and performance, wrote to stakeholders informing them that accountability for CSIP programmes will become the direct responsibility of DH national programme leads and the new deputy regional directors for social care and partnerships from December. CSIP’s children’s programme will transfer to strategic health authorities. The DH is still considering what to do with the offender programme and is reviewing CSIP’s mental health work.

Mason denies that the demise of CSIP – just short of its fourth birthday next March – represents failure. “It has absolutely succeeded in its aims, which were to make improvements in the regions. It was never set up to be the voice of the DH in the regions or to be civil servants,” he says.

The way the DH does business as a department, says Mason, has changed. This is reflected by the need to give the new deputy regional directors broader remits and powers than CSIP had. He says that although the organisation did “valuable work”, those in the sector were often confused about how to access policy development information. “Now we have a much clearer and coherent voice on how we deliver policy,” he adds.

Regional leadership

Nine professionals who have worked in health, social care and social services have been appointed as DH deputy regional directors, each with their own policy specialism. Based in England’s nine regional government offices, they will provide senior social care leadership at a regional level. The posts are at senior civil servant level and will be jointly managed by Mason and the regional directors of public health.

Amanda Reynolds, who became the East of England’s deputy regional director for social care and partnership in September, covers 10 local authorities with social services responsibilities. Her specialism is mental health, having trained as a psychiatric nurse in 1991 and working in adult mental health services, learning disabilities services and in joint roles for health and social services. Like Mason she believes CSIP has done a good job: “It has made a valuable contribution to social care,” she says. “It’s worked in a joined-up way and recognised the need for different bodies to work together.”

What has limited CSIP, she adds, is that the agency was not formally part of the DH and was restricted in how far it could go. “It couldn’t work with the authority of national government in the regions and that’s one of the most significant shifts in the roles of the deputy regional directors.”

The chance to build a stronger voice for social care in the region where she had worked for eight years was the prompt for Reynolds to apply for the new role. “Being a deputy regional director will open doors,” she says. “I’ll get the chance to get into places I couldn’t when I just worked for CSIP because I am a civil servant now.”

Another deputy regional director is Rachel Holynksa. Like Reynolds, she has worked in social services and health. As deputy regional director for the East Midlands, Holynska is keen to ensure the whole region is embracing the transformation agenda. “It is my role as a deputy regional director to help find information for a local authority that may need support, or I can ask my other deputy regional director colleagues.”

Some of the nine local authorities with which she is working have already identified support they need for safeguarding and dignity work. Holynska invited councils to put forward proposals on how they can improve this issue and she is considering the three ideas she has received. Eager to communicate what the new deputy regional directors do, she gave a presentation about her role to the East Midlands Government Office board. “The reaction was positive and I talked to them about Valuing People Now, which is my specialism,” Holynska says. “They’ve asked for regular updates about the challenges and achievements in adult social care.”


It all sounds very positive. But with another government quango falling by the wayside so soon after its establishment is there a risk that the deputy regional director post will be a flash in the pan too? Mason is confident that it won’t, stating that care services minister Phil Hope will have a direct line through him. Also, the DH director general for social care, local government and care partnerships, David Behan, will have a direct relationship with the deputy regional directors.

The DH has allocated £1m a year for the permanent roles, showing a high level of commitment to the positions. “This approach puts us light years ahead there is a now a man or woman from the ministry in each region,” says Mason.

The new model will help the government deliver on its commitment to the personalisation agenda as well as the deputy regional directors working on the programmes covering dementia, carers, safeguarding and Valuing People Now. “The deputy regional directors look in two directions: they offer an expert view on policy development because of their own rich experiences and they are responsible and accountable for the delivery of DH strategies in the regions,” says Mason

While CSIP may not have caught the imagination of every frontline practitioner in social care, the passion and commitment of the deputy regional directors – and the man overseeing them – is real. Now it is up to them to deliver.

This article published under the headline The Regional Agents for Improvement in the 27 November 2008 edition of Community Care

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