Directors rise to local challenges but say we cant do it alone

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
Association of Directors of Children's Services
Date: 10.00 am, Tuesday 1st December 2009.
Embargo: Immediate

Leaders of social services for adults and children today committed to rising to the challenges presented by the Social Work Task Forces recommendations for improving the way social workers are trained and supported in their vital roles. Making the task force recommendations a reality would not be quick, cheap or easy, the two Presidents warned, pointing to the Task Forces identification of the reforms as a ten year programme, but Directors were in it for the long haul.

Kim Bromley-Derry, President of the Association of Directors of Childrens Services, and Jenny Owen, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said local authority commitment would be crucial to the success of a number of partnerships charged with implementing the recommendations locally. Local authorities combined are the biggest employer of social workers in England. As such, local politicians, and directors of both adult and childrens services have a vital role in leading and supporting the workforce and in rebuilding public confidence in the system. This would include immediate practical steps to make improvements quickly. That said, we cant do it alone - maintaining the momentum of improvement will require commitments from central government, universities and the profession itself as well as local employers

The two Associations welcomed the Task Forces recognition of the importance of local context in social work and the rejection of a one size fits all approach to improving the system. They said that the Task Force has rightly left employers with flexibility for implementing partnerships and working conditions. This puts a responsibility on local authorities to make sure the right solutions are in place for their workforce and for their communities. It also means a stronger partnership between the two directorates -for adult social care and childrens services - to provide a consistent and suitable body of support for social workers no matter which department employs them. The Associations will be working together to assist members in their individual leadership roles, including encouraging directors to explore media opportunities that may improve the public understanding of social work.

The provision of well-supported placements for students, a probationary year before qualifying and commitments to continuing professional development for frontline staff and managers would increase the quality of practice, the Presidents said, adding that Supervision and clear career structures that allow for experienced professionals to stay in practice are key to addressing recruitment and retention problems in local authority social services and directors will welcome steps to tackle poorly prepared students and ensure that all existing staff have the skills required to meet the demands of the role.

Recognising that a generic degree would provide much needed professional cohesion and a focus on the core skills and values required in social work, the Associations accepted that employers will have a responsibility to ensure that social workers had opportunities to develop the specialist skills and knowledge required to work with children or adults and this would be an important part of local authorities responsibilities in providing both pre qualifying placements and on-going training. But new responsibilities must be matched with additional resources, they said. The Associations called for sustained investment in frontline services to allow local authorities to meet their responsibilities to the workforce. Placing new binding responsibilities on employers to provide supervision, support and a limit on numbers of cases must be matched with an increase in the resources available to meet those demands. The funding of social services is already under significant pressure - there is simply not the scope at a local level to meet the total resource demands of these recommendations, either in the short or longer term. Steps must be taken to ensure all available resources are focused on the frontline now, to allow local authorities the flexibility to make immediate improvements to the support available to social workers. In the longer term the financial impact of these new responsibilities must be assessed and provided for.

To this end, Kim Bromley-Derry and Jenny Owen called for a mature approach to the regulation and accreditation proposals put forward by the Task Force, using the opportunity to review the expenditure on and activity of all the bodies involved in the regulatory process. Welcoming recommendations of a National College to define the standards and expectations of social workers, they said that such an organisation has significant potential for raising the profile of social work and increasing the cohesion of the workforce but cautioned against adding another organisation into the mix of bodies involved in regulation and inspection of social services. It is also important, they said, that inspection and regulation frameworks recognised the long term nature of the reform programme and acknowledged local authority efforts to improve performance would be long term and require innovation in the delivery of services. Local authorities searching for innovative solutions and sustained improvements will need to know that they will not be penalized for experimenting with new approaches to delivery., they said.

ADASS President Jenny Owen said she was pleased that the report re-emphasised the importance of social work within adult social care services. "It will help equip these important professionals with the skills and expertise required to make an enduring, beneficial reality of the personalisation agenda," she said.

ADCS President Kim Bromley-Derry added, Confident and skilled social workers make a central contribution to helping the most vulnerable children as part of multi-disciplinary, integrated services for children and young people. Their professional expertise is invaluable to making decisions in the best interests of the children we serve.

ENDS

For further information, contact:
Jenny Owen, President, ADASS, 01245 434806
Kim Bromley-Derry, President, ADCS, 020 3373 7412
Rebecca Godar, ADCS 0161 8385763
Drew Clode, ADASS 020 8348 5023

Pictures of both Presidents available on request

  • ADCS is the national leadership organisation in England for directors of childrens services appointed under the provisions of the Children Act 2004 and for other childrens services professionals in leadership roles. The Association provides a national voice as a champion for children, with local and central government, and with the public.
     
  • The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) represents directors of adult social services in local authorities in England. DASS's have statutory responsibilities for the social care of older people and adults with disabilities, while over 50 per cent also run social housing departments. ADASS members might also share a number of responsibilities for the provision and/or commissioning of leisure, library, culture and arts services within their councils.
     
  • The Associations have today issued a document listing 12 principles that should guide all decisions on how to take forward the recommendations of the Social Work Taskforce. The document is available here.