How devolution is affecting social care: Ian Davey, director, England

Ian Davey, interim director of community services, Kingston-upon-Thames Council, talks about his experiences.

“Overall I would say that local authorities are making pretty good progress on personalisation. You have got a number of instances where the changes being made are making a real difference to people’s lives. I think it’s the right way forward. The questionmarks are some concerns personally about [personalisation] being overtaken by a target-setting culture. We have a national indicator to meet and then stretch targets. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have these but we need to be sure that the implementation of personalisation doesn’t get overtaken by how many numbers we have, instead of changing views, cultures and mindsets.

“Another thing that needs to be thought about is that we get people to the point of ‘yes it’s great to be able to exercise my choice’ but then there have to be providers for people to use to get that support. Are we going to be able to change the way services are provided? It’s also unclear about what happens when we get to the position of, in effect, having mini commissioners. Then what is going to be the role of strategic commissioners, the local authorities, in the future?

“I would have thought that social workers would be pretty positive about personalisation. Instead of feeling that they spend all their time in front of a computer screen filling in assessment forms you are there directly helping people to plan the support to improve their lives. That’s really what social work should be about. Every step of helping a family won’t involve a social worker, but we are not seeing the end of social work here, far from it.

“There are pros and cons to separating children’s and adults’ departments. I have seen a lot of good things happening in places I have worked. The benefits for adults’ services being joined with other service areas, for example, is people with learning disabilities being able to access mainstream leisure facilities and suitable housing. There have been some good spin-offs. But I’m long enough in the tooth to see there were benefits to having one department, particularly when it comes to things like transition and mental health.

“I think social work needs a stronger voice in England. I think that’s accepted otherwise we wouldn’t have the Social Work Task Force. There are still the same difficulties there have been for a number of years of getting across a positive image and promoting good practice and that’s something we need to work hard at.

“Regulation can only help the public image, but the fact that the plans for regulating different sections of the workforce have been put back is a concern because we are only addressing a minority of the workforce.” 

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