"But I do have some worries. Traditionally the welfare service has been the voice of the child. With the development of a quasi-market in education, children with difficulties have become unprofitable lines for schools and the concern is that, in getting closer to school, the vulnerable will get marginalised further.
CAROL YOUNGER, principal education welfare officer at Bedfordshire, voiced similar concerns: "I worry how much money is going to be left for schools after you have taken out money to support primaries and pupils outside the school system. We have 17 upper schools and 13 education welfare officers who also cover the primary sector. You don't have to be a mathematician to work out you are not going to have one officer for each school."
NIGEL BOWES, children's
support service manager for Bournemouth, said: "We have no problems with the change in principle, but the big issue is with accountability. Once you target the resources on schools, you are not necessarily transferring ultimate responsibility to them. Local authorities are called to account for their truancy levels and we would want to see what safeguards would be in place to make sure that schools use their money properly."
BRIAN THOMPSON, head of educational social work services in Sunderland, said his authority already assigned welfare officers to individual schools, rather than to an area.
"It has worked very well after initial concerns about officers over identifying with the school rather than the child. My worry is whether schools are going to be given enough money to buy back the service at the level that they are getting now."