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Blunkett tells social workers splitting children's and adults' was wrong

Former Labour home secretary David Blunkett criticised the split between children’s and adults’ services introduced by his government in 2002.

Speaking at BASW England’s Conference and Annual Meeting, Mr Blunkett advocated a more “holistic” approach to supporting people.

He also described the dismantling of the Sure Start programme under the Coalition government providing support for families with young children in disadvantaged areas as “nothing short of criminal”.

Mr Blunkett said: “I am really sceptical about the break up of the service into the children's and young person directorate and adult care.

“Addressing the whole family is key. The previous government established the Troubled Families programme. I think the principle of that is reasonable, it presumes you have a holistic approach to dealing with the challenges of a family set within the neighbourhood in which they are living.”

Mr Blunkett claimed social work has been put on the “defensive” of having to deal with the latest safeguarding crisis within both children’s and adults’ services.

He said the profession needed to get back on the “front foot”, but stressed spending on social services was crucial to enabling social workers to their job.

The Labour stalwart, who recently stood down as MP after 28 years, indicated his displeasure at his party’s failure to make the case for public spending in the General Election.

“Spend on other critical services is vital in terms of you [social workers] not having to do your job in the way you are having to do it. We didn’t even begin to argue this in the general election.

“We live in an interconnected society where a decision taken to spend, and engagement in one area, has a major knock on in other provision and the way we do our job, whether from housing, transport, or support in terms of income and social security.”

Mr Blunkett said Sure Start, or a similar programme, would have to be re-invented by a future government.

“We have to invest in youngsters and their mums, sometimes dads, to grow them to deal with life challenges and aspire to expect more from life.

“I do hope my own party gets a grip of itself and starts to develop radical policies which will mean looking at what worked in the past.”

Mr Blunkett said the remodelling of social services was “just a nonsense” unless the fragmented and outsourced elements were pulled together and made to work for people, a task that social workers had the skills to perform.

“If we are going to have to re-engineer services, we will have to do it alongside people and make it work for them. We are going to have to go back to embedding in the community, where we say we are going to build on your strengths and work alongside you.”

Only by engaging with people in this way and help them to make sustainable changes in their lives would social work be able to thrive in an environment where it gets blamed for “societal issues”, said Mr Blunkett.