The health policies of the Labour Government of 1997-2001 included an increased emphasis on social services departments' (SSDs) contribution to promoting health. Three dimensions of this policy shift are discussed: first, the drive towards organisational fusion between elements of the NHS and SSDs; second, the new mechanisms for conjoint funding of health and social services; and, finally, the new policy focus on tackling health inequalities by combating social inequalities on a national and locality basis. In each case, the touchstone of our analysis is the consequences for the health and well-being of SSD service users as members of socially disadvantaged groups. We conclude that New Labour has taken some steps, particularly reducing child poverty, which will have long lasting health and social benefits for actual and potential service users. However, inadequate funding of SSDs undermines their effectiveness as a partner in integrated health and social care. As signalled by service user initiatives, SSDs potential for promoting more equal chances of health and well-being in ill-health will also not be realised without substantial changes to current SSD policy and practice.