Social care chiefs worried by reshuffle impact

Social work leaders have called for stability to ensure the successful implementation of government reforms, following Gordon Brown’s cabinet reshuffle and weeks of political turmoil.

In the reshuffle, Andy Burnham, former culture secretary and a previous health minister, replaced Alan Johnson as health secretary.

Dawn Primarolo replaced children’s minister Beverley Hughes, but children’s secretary Ed Balls and care services minister Phil Hope remained in their posts.

Social work initiatives

The personnel changes come with the Department of Health and Department for Children, Schools and Families overseeing key initiatives in social care, notably:

● The Social Work Task Force, which is examining how to improve the standing and quality of the profession in England.

● The reforms to child protection initiated by Lord Laming’s review, triggered by the baby Peter case.

● The forthcoming green paper on the future funding of adult social care.

● The ongoing implementation of personalisation in adult care.

Sideline fears

Hughes’s resignation last week sparked fears that the reforms pledged after the baby Peter case could become sidelined. Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University, said then: “By the time it comes to autumn, general election fever will take hold and the post-Baby P reforms won’t receive much attention.”

Kim Bromley-Derry, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, welcomed Primarolo’s appointment. But added: “Stability must be the priority for those of us leading the sector in these challenging times”.

Jenny Owen, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Services, praised Burnham, saying he had previously proved his commitment to personalisation and adult social care while at the DH.


But Hilton Dawson, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers and former Labour MP, said he was “impatient” to see the government progress with the reforms and said an early general election was needed to end political uncertainty. He also called for a cross-party consensus on the future of social work, urging the government to ensure the recommendations of the Social Work Task Force were not derailed. Dawson is due to meet Balls next month to discuss reforms.

In other reshuffle moves, Yvette Cooper has replaced James Purnell as work and pensions secretary, taking responsibility for government policy on disability, older people and welfare reform, while John Denham replaces Hazel Blears as communities and local government secretary.

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