Intrigued by Michael Gove’s instant decision to change the name of the Dept for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) to the Dept for Education before he’d opened his first red box.
I was at DfES when it took responsibility for children’s issues, and led some of the early work on communicating the Every Child Matters programme. It took a LONG time for the Department to get out of its “education, education, education” mindset and start to think about children’s services as an equal part of what it was about. I remember an excruciating planning meeting looking at the strategy for the whole Department, which focused so exclusively on schools’ standards that those of us working on children’s policy complained of feeling like the mad relatives locked in the attic that no-one wanted to talk about. Eventually things changed - some might argue it went too far the other way (though not, I’d guess, thousands of children in care who still have much worse chances in life than their more fortunate peers).
So, does this symbolic name change mean that children’s services are being shoved back in the Departmental attic? A quick google to find things Gove has said about children’s services reveals much complaining about Baby Peter but not many policy clues, and a rather worrying willingness to dismantle what’s been put in place.
There’s another blog post (or possibly a rather dull book) to be written about what worked and what didn’t on Every Child Matters, and I agree that there are levels of bureaucracy now in place that might well stand in the way of positive action. I’d be happier if I could see some more definite thinking about what the Tories want to do in this area – and some recognition that children’s policy isn’t just about supporting families through the tax system.