There is almost a Greek tragedy emerging from the financial position in which Edinburgh City Council finds itself (p3). For years, education departments all over Scotland congratulated themselves on their superior budget settlements and ring-fenced funding, particularly when compared with their poorer (literally) cousins in social work. Fast forward a few years to some highly publicised tragedies involving over-stretched and under-funded social services and we find their budgets being shored up so staff can cope. The runaway costs of dealing with vulnerable youngsters have turned round to bite education.
Of course, this is partly because, in many parts of Scotland, education and social work have to share the same departmental budget. The relentless drive to integrate services is not unique to Edinburgh and its troubles may be reflected elsewhere. There is no denying there are issues affecting half-empty schools and schools in the wrong places but, hard as their fate is to accept, there may be a bigger issue at stake.
Is it time to revisit the assumptions that lie behind integrated services? Nobody doubts that professionals should work together in the interests of children. But where does it stop? The logic is surely a combination of education, social work, health, the police. Nobody is contemplating such a scenario, but there is a danger of integration being seen through a narrow prism and of assuming that, if a few services are brought under the same roof, genuine integration will take place.
There seems little independent evidence to show the efficacy of this "joined up thinking". At the end of the day, professionals do have to work together but not in a way that offers the illusion of integration without substance. Edinburgh's budgetary battles could be the start of something bigger.