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New Sandwell children's services trust 'aims to go live next summer'

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A new trust that will provide children's social care services in Sandwell could be up and running by summer 2017, it has been revealed.

Plans were implemented in October to introduce an independent trust to run Sandwell's children's social care services.

It followed the announcement in June that the council would lose control of services for the borough's children following a six-month review which came after an 'inadequate' Ofsted ranking.

Since then, the council has been working closely and at pace with commissioner Malcolm Newsam and the Department for Education to agree detailed proposals about how the trust will work.

Council bosses now say that 'significant progress' has been made on the proposals and a report is set to go before the council's cabinet next week.

It provides details about which functions within children's services will be transferred to the trust and sets out the aim for the new trust to go live by summer 2017.

The report sets out the vision for the trust to 'measurably improve the lives of children and their families in Sandwell with a focus on ensuring a positive impact on those children most in need of protection and care'. Councillor Simon Hackett, Sandwell's cabinet member for children's services, said: "We have been working at great speed to bring forward proposals for the new trust.

"The aspiration is to make sure it is a centre of social work excellence focussed on improving the lives of vulnerable children. The aim is for the trust to be in operation by next summer."

The report also states that council employees moving to the trust will be subject to a TUPE transfer which was not the council's preferred option.

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We held extensive negotiations with the DfE's appointed commissioner and made it clear that we wanted our staff to be seconded to the trust," Councillor Hackett said.

"However, the commissioner has been clear that he is unable to recommend this option to the minister.

"While disappointed with the commissioner's decision, we remain dedicated to making significant and sustained improvements within the service and will continue to work with the DfE to achieve these aims," he added.

The report will go before the council's cabinet on December 7. If agreed, it will be submitted to the secretary of state for approval.

It comes as three-quarters of children's services departments across England are inadequate or require improvement, an Ofsted report said earlier this year.

Inspectors blamed weak leadership and too-high caseloads as reasons why some local authorities are failing to care for vulnerable children, with child protection performing particularly poorly.

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