Child Protection, shared services and accountability (1)

One of the things I really enjoy about my post is the extent of joint working with colleagues from health, police, voluntary sector, children’s social work and other organisations and groups with a common interest in improving services to children and families.  This form of joint working can be characterised as “integrated service delivery” 

Yet integrated service delivery leads one naturally to consider the potential for “shared service” delivery.

The drive for shared services can be traced back to the Gershon Review which considered efficiency in the UK public sector in 2004-2005. It was founded on the assumption that certain functions of government were identified as offering good opportunities for savings through the use of ICT: such as tax collection and benefits payments. Aggregating and reorganising other functions were seen to offer the promise of savings in procurement, buildings and facilities.

In Scotland this was followed by a consultation paper published in 2006 by the Scottish Government in the form of “A Shared Approach to Building a Better Scotland” . The main focus of the paper was upon inward facing services such as finance, procurement, HR, facilities, ICT and professional services, e.g. legal, audit.  There was a second area which addressed operational support systems and processes which would allow shared services to be established, areas identified in this respect included:

social care administration/client management, Criminal Justice, Education administration, Housing administration, Transport/highways maintenance/management, Police Operational Systems, Fire Operational Systems, Customer Contact/ CRM, Payments systems, Corporate performance management/reporting , Grants and funding administration, Tribunal administration.

The same paper went on to specifically focus upon social care and child protection:

“There has been a long term move towards an integration of the Social Care services provided by Councils and NHS Boards and for the effective sharing of data on vulnerable children between Education, Social Work, Police and Health. The selection of common standards, processes and operational systems and the shared deployment of these will play a key part in these developments and we will support initiatives with this aim.”

Certainly within our integrated service approach in East Lothian there has been a move towards shared processes, standards and operational systems.  Yet our progress had been hampered by the fact that the police and health services extend across more than one council area, i.e. our boundaries are not co-terminus.  For example the police division covers Midlothian and East Lothian.

From an objective point of view there appears to be an inescapable logic that East and Midlothian need to develop common standards, processes and operational systems in order to facilitate effective joint working with our key partners, which may or may not take the form of “shared services”

In my next post I will explore the benefits, risks and possible solutions of this direction of travel.





3 thoughts on “Child Protection, shared services and accountability (1)

  1. Hmmm… I found your tracing of the drive towards shared services very interesting. I had wondered where it was all coming from. I have found shared training events between agencies around subtance misusing parents and child protection to be immensely informative because our presumptions of the roles and scope of other professionals is often based on prejudice and generalisations, which is exposed when we actually are given opportunities to dialogue. Sometimes, it has shown that different agencies have quite different value bases, beliefs and attitudes towards ‘clients’, which can be disheartening. I have also been amazed at people’s prejudices, generalisations and presumptions about schools. It is very sad that there are so few of these shared training events as they are key to working honestly and well together successfully.

    However, the other part of the sharing trend – that of shared administration – fills me with horror. Working in a large authority, who have merged department finance and HR systems into a large corporate system may make economic sense to somebody theoretically but its practice is miserable, bureaucratic and energy sapping. So research and think very carefully about how this impacts on the practitioners it purports to serve before embarking on such a journey. It has made my job so much more difficult and I feel the time I now spend serving the bureaucracy of electronic HR, electronic finance, prevents my core work of nurturing children for learning. Instead of easing my job, it makes it much harder.

    Small is very beautiful!!

  2. Given the current situation in England, I’ve been wondering if you’d post on this subject. It’s very interesting to hear your thoughts on these matters.

  3. At a time when there is recognition of the need to give communities more say in the design of their services, the idea that major elements of those services should be rejigged for the convenience of the service providers’ bureaucracy seems more perverse than inescapably logical.

    If communities are to have a voice in service design, surely providers need to be moving in the opposite direction and be becoming adept at coping with differences between communities, not flattening them out? Or am I missing something?

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