A LOCAL authority's pioneering new service begins life today.

The Highland Council is merging education, culture, sport, health and social care to create The Care and Learning Service. It is the result of the council's commitment to better integrate education, health and social care services to promote improved provision for children, families and communities.

It follows the bringing together of health and social care in 2012 and completes the council's plan to reduce the number of services from seven to five, reducing management costs by £350,000 per year. The service will be responsible for schools, child health, social care and additional needs.

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It will also be responsible for mental health officers and criminal justice social work, as well as catering and cleaning across the council. It will commission the adult social care service from NHS Highland, and the culture and leisure services from High Life Highland.