Private sector bosses ‘could cause chaos’ in social care

Hiring private sector bosses to run social care services could cause chaos in council departments, an expert has warned.

Hiring private sector bosses to run social care services could cause chaos in council departments, an expert has warned.

The proposal, aired in Will Hutton’s review of senior pay in the public sector, was dismissed by Ray Jones, former director of social services at Wiltshire Council.

The Hutton report said the pool of candidates for top public sector jobs should be widened, and employers should support managers to move to and from the private sector.

But Jones said private sector managers were often “arrogant” and lacked the political skills and sensitivity to provide services for communities in the complex world of local government.

“In the private sector there’s one goal – to increase the profit margin. In the public sector managers have to deal with growing demand for services with less funding, which is actually a far more difficult task than simply increasing the profit,” said Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University.

Jones said managers who had previously taken over the running of social services had “caused chaos”.

“They don’t have the experience or wisdom that you need to provide services for disabled people or vulnerable children, because they come in with an arrogance that doesn’t match their expertise.”

However, others were more optmistic about the feasibility of the plan.

Hilton Dawson, chief executive of BASW – the College of Social Work, said “we don’t have a problem with people from other disciplines entering senior management posts within social services”.

However, he stressed that they should employ deputies with social work skills to work alongside them.

He added that social workers could equally move outside of their immediate field and take up senior management roles in “a wide range of people-centred public services”.

The proposal was also backed by Iain Hasdell, UK head of local and regional government at accountants KPMG, who said people with commercial skills, such as procurement and commissioning, could play a vital role in social care.

“Anything that increases the number of high quality individuals who, within their careers, work at various times within different sectors of the economy is to be welcomed,” he said. “The boundaries between the public, private and third sectors are becoming more and more blurred – and people with acumen across the sectors will be in more and more demand.”

He added: “It is perfectly feasible and indeed desirable to see this type of lateral recruitment – the skills are very transferable.”

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