Sunday, 11 September 2011

NCC Finally Completes the Full Circle in Social Work Leadership

Back in the day most councils had a 'Director of Social Service' in charge of a 'social services' department.

This department would be responsible for services to both adults and children, so adoptions, child protection, adult mental health, meals on wheels and all those myriad services were under one roof, with one Director in charge of them all.

Then the tragedy of Victoria Climbie's murder happened.

This resulted in a number of changes to the structure of social services including the separation of services for adults and children as part of the 'Every Child Matters' initiative, as it was felt that children were getting a poorer service by being lumped in with adults. As a result most councils ended up with an Adult Services and a Children's Services department with a Director atop each (Or 'Corporate Director' as they are called at NCC). Education was absorbed into Children's Services departments, as was always intended to ensure integration of the most important services for children and generally, following the hiving off of housing provision to ALMOs or sold off together, the rump of housing services tended to be absorbed into the Adults Services departments. As a result there generally wasn't an increase in the number of senior managers which of course is expensive and generally politically unpopular.

That's the sort of potted general background, now back to the more specific issues at NCC.

Anyway, as you know NCC has made quite a lot of cuts in recent years and fair enough, they reached as high as the Directors as well as the foot soldiers. As I wrote about at the time, Adult Services was absorbed into the Communities department and the Corporate Director for Adult Services took voluntary redundancy. This caused a problem because Michael Williams, the Corporate Director for Communities at the time, did not have any background in social work. A second tier Director post reporting to him was cobbled together to do the actual work but a further issue that this didn't deal with was that there is a statutory requirement to have a (Corporate) Director of Adult Services of the same seniority as the chief officer for Children's Services and, nominally at least, this was Williams.

This was allegedly fine until Williams retired and his temporary replacement wasn't able or willing to take the adult services role on. The solution was to appoint another Adults Services Chief Officer, at least temporarily, less than a year after the post was deleted. Good planning this was not.

Anyway, now things have moved on again because the Appointments and Conditions of Services Committee has considered a report recommending that the Adult Services chief officer role be passed to the Corporate Director for Children's Services. This apparently ticks all the boxes legally and organisationally.

Except, of course for the fact that NCC now has a combined Chief Officer for both adults and children which was apparently a bad idea eight years ago. He also looks after education too which wasn't a responsibility of the old Social Services director.

So we've come full circle. Deja Vu. Something will presumably have to give, it remains to be seen what.

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