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Multi-discipline teams defended

The director of education who has pushed through a controversial restructuring of support services for children has urged the expansion of joint agency work with young people.

"We tend to be ring-fenced professionals," Bob McKay, director in Perth and Kinross, told a seminar in Glasgow, held to coincide with the Scotland Special Needs Exhibition 97.

Mr McKay has encountered criticism from psychologists for creating three multi-disciplinary teams of psychologists, educational social workers and community education staff (TESS, October 4). The principal psychologist is not responsible for the psychologists in two of the teams.

Mr McKay said there was a pragmatic reason for joint working between education and social work which was to achieve economies of scale. But he acknowledged a philosophic divide could set up barriers to co-operation.

This often stemmed from pre-service training and a start was required there to underpin effective inter-agency work. He did not expect teachers to become social workers or vice versa but both professions had to assume an agenda for education and care.

Mr McKay, a former president of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said another key problem was the absence of a single statutory framework for children's services. "For the first time we have a piece of legislation that applies to me as a director of education, to my colleagues in social work and to the Reporter's department. Up to now we have operated under statutes pertaining to our own services. The Children Act encourages inter-agency working for some cohorts of children, for example children in need or disabled. By 1998, we should have a children's services plan for each authority which is interdepartmental for certain children. What I am saying is that the principle which underpins that should operate for all children. "

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