Council chiefs call for scrapping of DCS role
Thursday, May 8, 2014
The role of director of children's services (DCS) should be scrapped to give local authorities more flexibility over leadership, a report has recommended.
The chief executives group Solace said the DCS role, which was made statutory through the Children Act 2004 is contributing to "an isolation of children's services from the wider local government sector", and is "inhibiting innovation".
The Reclaiming Children's Services report suggests that such a move would allow local authorities greater scope to work across areas including health, social care and the troubled families agenda, enabling "shared budgets, shared commissioning and shared outcomes".
Graeme McDonald, director of Solace, said deregulation could enable councils to take a "truly whole place" approach to children and families issues.
"Local authorities as an autonomous, self-confident sector must be enabled to innovate, to define for themselves what ‘good' looks like and to shape localities into places where all children are safe, happy and able to pursue their ambitions," he said.
But the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) quickly moved to reject the idea of scrapping the role.
Alison O'Sullivan, vice president of the ADCS said: "The existence of the post of DCS does not stop safeguarding and protection of children being everybody's business and there is no evidence to suggest that dispersed leadership would result in better services for children and families.
"Safeguarding and protecting children is a multi-agency endeavour and bringing together partners to meet the needs of local children is a critical part of the existing role of the DCS.
"It is imperative that the single-minded focus on driving up outcomes and ensuring that the needs of children and young people are heard around the corporate table is not lost."
Nick Forbes, vice chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said that at a time of increased demand for children's services and significant reductions in funding to councils it is necessary to "radically rewire" the way that the public, private and voluntary sectors work together to improve the life-chances of children.
"We share Solace's ambitions for a commonly agreed set of outcomes that we would all want to achieve and look forward to working with councils, partners and children and young people to agree what those outcomes should be," he said.
The Solace report, which makes a total of 12 recommendations, also calls on local authorities to develop clearer mechanisms for identifying struggling services - investing in properly resourced improvement mechanisms.
And it calls for the sector and the government to collaborate on a programme of workforce reform, including developing further integration of children and families social work with other agencies working with children and young people.