Headlines: October 25th, 2004

Local authorities are leading the way in implementing new methods of delivering services set out in the Children Bill even before it even becomes law, according to research from the Improvement and Development Agency. In a report it shows that many councils have already complied with two of the key demands of the bill, the appointment of a director and a lead councillor for children’s services, and the improved integration of services.The bill, which is due to receive the Royal Assent in November, gives local authorities until a deadline in 2008 to make these appointments.

The IDeA survey received a 100 per cent response rate from the 150 councils that have responsibility for social services and education. It found that 17 per cent of councils had already appointed a director of children’s services. Almost a quarter of authorities describe their services as integrated but without having the formal structures required by the bill. Of the councils that do not yet have a director in place, more than half intend to do so within the next twelve months.

A third of councils now have a lead councillor for children’s services in place and 47 per cent report that they intended to do so within a year.

The survey was conducted by the IDeA with the Local Government Association and Solace. The IDeA says it clearly demonstrates that improving children’s services is a live issue for all councils. Executive Director Lucy de Groot said local authorities were serious about wanting to make the act a success, and they were creating local solutions to match their individual needs.

Tim Byles, chairman of SOLACE, said local government was again showing that it was well equipped to deal with change. “The survey also demonstrates that local authorities are changing according to local circumstances with almost a quarter of local authorities choosing to integrate services before changing top structures,” he said.