The future appointment of joint directors of children’s and adult social services has been thrown into doubt after the Department for Children, Schools and Families warned councils against the practice.
In statutory guidance on the roles of children’s directors, published for consultation last week, the DCSF said appointments to joint posts, while legally permissible, should not happen “without very strong justification”.
It also said that councils should not split responsibility for education and children’s social care at assistant or deputy director level.
Four years after the Children Act 2004 mandated councils to appoint directors with responsibility for education and children’s social care, effectively splitting social services departments, about 10% of English authorities now have joint posts.
An Improvement and Development Agency report last month, found many of these councils were high performing in adults’ and children’s services, and joint directors reported reduced bureaucracy and a more family-centred approach.
However, the IDeA found the role carried a significant workload, about 70% of which, on average, was spent on children’s issues. A DCSF spokesperson told Community Care that directors of children’s services had to provide “sufficient personal focus” on the well-being of children locally.
Local authorities with joint directorates would not be expected to break them up, she said, but added: “We would expect them to keep these arrangements under review to ensure they continue to enable the necessary focus on children.”
Andrew Cozens, IDeA strategic adviser for children, adults and health services, said: “I don’t think it will affect current plans, but possibly future ones.”
The Department of Health said the issue of whether there could be a joint director was “a matter for each local authority to decide”, but “there must be a clear focus on improving well-being of all adults in the area”.