The £1.8m contract will see Impower and HR firm Penna working with the authority to overhaul children’s services in Doncaster for the next two years.
The move comes after Education Secretary Michael Gove ordered the council to bring in outside help following an inadequate Ofsted rating and Lord Carlile’s review of its work following the Edlington case.
Under the contract, Impower will be expected to reduce Doncaster’s use of agency staff in frontline social care to less than 12 per cent within a year.
It will also have to find ways to reduce spending on looked-after children placements, interim and agency staff, and out-of-authority special needs placements.
Max Wide, a director at Impower who will lead the consultancy’s work in Doncaster, told CYP Now: “The whole contract is predicated on the idea that we are there to add to the existing improvement plan and we want to add capacity, pace and innovation to that plan.
"We are not taking over Doncaster’s children’s services but working with them.”
Impower will start its work in Doncaster on 1 July and its first job will be to develop a revised improvement plan for children’s services.
“We will take the improvement plan, meet with workstream leaders and really add into those proposals to create a refreshed improvement plan within a month,” he says.
“There are 110 tasks in the existing improvement plan and our proposals have another 58 and we are going to try and fuse those.”
Wide, who also heads Impower’s work with children’s services in Sandwell, said it would be seeking to rebrand children’s services in Doncaster as part of a bid to improve the recruitment of social workers.
“Our approach will be broadly the same as we have done in Sandwell, with a new brand for the partnership that will encourage people to come and work for a transformative partnership that seeks to build a better service,” he said.
Penna will also work on improvements to recruitment practices in Doncaster with the aim of speeding up the process.
In terms of existing staff, Impower plans to introduce a new management style at the authority.
“We use the Values Mode methodology, which works out people’s motivational type and there are three fundamental types: settlers; prospectors; and pioneers,” he said.
“Pioneers are dominant in social work. Social workers want to do the right thing for people but sometimes that is at variance with a management style that expects them to comply, so we will be seeking to appeal to that motivation among social workers.”
Impower has also agreed to work with Eleanor Brazil, the interim director of children’s services appointed by Doncaster, rather than bring in a different director.
“All the bidders were asked if they could work with her and all said yes, us included,” said Wide.
Although the contract includes an option to extend the arrangement for a further two years, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) is concerned that the deal is too short-term to deliver lasting improvements.
“We have concerns for Doncaster over the longer term,” said Bridget Robb, chief executive of BASW.
“Will this help build internal skills and resources and enable the council to take back the service at the end of the contract?
“What children’s services need is long-term support. Constant short-term solutions are not the way forward.”
Doncaster’s deputy mayor, Labour councillor Glyn Jones, said the deal was an “important milestone” in the council’s efforts to improve children’s services.
“This new public-private partnership between the council and Impower will help drive through the improvements we need at the speed we need them,” he said.