About this Guidance
This is statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Education.
1. Local authorities in England must have regard to it in relation to the appointment of the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) and the designation of the Lead Member for Children’s Services (LMCS). This guidance covers the legislative basis for the two appointments, roles and responsibilities of the post holders, and how this relates to Government expectations about local authorities’ role in education and children and young people’s services.
2. This guidance replaces the previous versions, issued in 2005 and 2009. The guidance will be reviewed on an annual basis to check whether it is still fit for purpose; but it will only be revised if it is no longer considered to be fit for purpose. Annex A lists other sources of information and guidance and will be updated regularly.
What legislation does this guidance relate to?
3. This document is issued under sections 18(7) (Director of Children’s Services) and 19(2) (Lead Member for Children’s Services) of the Children Act 2004. This means that local authorities must have regard to it and, if they decide to depart from it, they will need to have clear reasons for doing so.
Who is this guidance for?
4. This guidance is for local authorities in England with responsibility for education1 and children’s social services functions.
The Children Act 2004 requires every upper tier local authority to appoint a Director of Children’s Services and designate a Lead Member for Children’s Services.
The DCS and LMCS are appointed for the purposes of discharging the education and children’s social services functions of the local authority. The functions for which they are responsible are set out in section 18(2) of the Children Act 2004. This includes (but is not limited to) responsibility for children and young people receiving education or children’s social care services in their area and all children looked after by the local authority or in custody (regardless of where they are placed).
Within this legal framework, it is for individual local authorities to determine their own organisational structures in the light of their local circumstances. However, local authorities must ensure that there is both a single officer and a single elected member each responsible for both education and children’s social care. The DCS and LMCS should each have an integrated children’s services brief, ensuring that the safety and the educational, social and emotional needs of children and young people are central to the local vision. Between them, the DCS and LMCS provide a clear and unambiguous line of local accountability.
The DCS has professional responsibility for children’s services, including operational matters; the LMCS has political responsibility for children’s services. Together with the Chief Executive and Leader or Mayor2, the DCS and LMCS have a key leadership role both within the local authority and working with other local agencies to improve outcomes for children and young people.
The DCS is a politically restricted statutory chief officer post; they should be a first tier officer and report directly to the Chief Executive.
Local authorities should, as a matter of course, assure themselves that their arrangements enable them to discharge their education and children’s social care functions effectively.
Given the breadth and importance of children’s services functions that the DCS and LMCS cover, local authorities should give due consideration to protecting the discrete roles and responsibilities of the DCS and LMCS before allocating to them any additional functions other than children’s services.
1 References in this guidance to local authority “education” functions do not include further and higher education functions listed at section 18(3) of the Children Act 2004.
2 Local authorities that are considering adopting the committee system should take into account any implications for the DCS and LMCS roles.