Children's services trusts get share of £36m innovation cash

By Neil Puffett

| 20 March 2017

Two independent trusts designed to improve children's services at councils rated "inadequate" by Ofsted have been awarded funding from the Department for Education's innovation fund.

Children's minister Edward Timpson has announced a total of £36m in innovation funding for 11 projects. Picture: UK Parliament

Children's minster Edward Timpson has announced a total of £36m in funding for 11 projects, including £4m for Northamptonshire County Council to continue developing its independent trust.

Meanwhile, Slough Children's Services Trust will get £1.4m to transform its staffing model by introducing "enhanced hubs", described as a more dynamic way of delivering early help and support to children in need, and introducing the "Signs of Safety" practice model and a new domestic abuse assessment response.

Slough Council was told by the Department for Education in July 2014 that children's services would be split off from local authority control and run by an independent trust in an attempt to improve performance following an Ofsted inspection in November 2013 highlighted serious weaknesses in child protection work.

An independent trust was launched on 30 September 2015, but an inspection that began in November 2015 found that not enough improvement had been made since the 2013 inspection and services were rated inadequate again.

However, in December 2016 an Ofsted monitoring visits noted signs of progress.

Northamptonshire County Council was previously rated inadequate for child protection by Ofsted in March 2013, and inadequate for services for looked-after children in August 2013, around three months prior to the launch of the single inspection framework.

A report published by Ofsted following a five-week inspection that began in February 2016 gave it an overall rating of "requires improvement".

However, the council's plans to launch an independent trust have been subject to significant delays. In October it emerged that the trust was not expected to be fully established until December 2017, despite the initial plans being for a September 2016 launch.

Other beneficiaries of the innovation funding include the Lifelong Links project run by the Family Rights Group which will receive £5m. The project aims to bring together as many people as possible who care about a child through family group conferences.

And Hertfordshire County Council has been awarded £11.6m to extend its family safeguarding model to four more councils - Bracknell Forest, Luton, Peterborough, and West Berkshire.

Children's minister Edward Timpson, said: "Childhood should be a happy and safe time in all our lives. We must do all we can to make sure this is the reality for every child.

"By harnessing the passion and expertise of those who care for children, we can provide them with life-changing support. By giving professionals the freedom to develop new and innovative ways of working, these fantastic projects will help make a real difference to children's lives. I look forward to seeing them deliver great results in the future."

The innovation fund was initially announced by children's minister Edward Timpson in 2013. It is worth a total of £200m for the four-year period 2016 to 2020.

The full list of recipients is:

  • The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime and NHS England's Child House project will get £744,000 to improve support for children, young people and their non-offending families following incidents of sexual abuse or child sexual exploitation.
  • Newham Council - £2.6m to develop the NewDay programme - protecting and sustaining change for children affected by domestic abuse. 
  • Northamptonshire County Council - £4m to develop an alternative delivery model for children's services, focused on services for vulnerable children, involving both structural change and practice improvement.
  • Shared Lives Plus - £365,000 to explore extending the Shared Lives model to support young people in care with additional needs as an alternative to foster care.
  • The Fostering Network and 12 delivery partners - £3.8m to further develop the Mockingbird project, as well as expanding to new geographical areas.
  • Family Rights Group - £5m to develop the Lifelong Links project which aims to create life-long support networks for children and young people in care.
  • Hertfordshire County Council - £11.6m to extend its Family Safeguarding model to Luton, Peterborough, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire. A whole-system change approach to child protection.
  • Catch 22 - £1.9m to work alongside Southwark Council to test new approaches to improving outcomes for care leavers.
  • Havering Council - £2.4m to offer a multi-agency systemic service for 11- to 24-year-olds comprising social workers, foster carers, family therapists, pathway practitioners and other specialists through a co-produced framework of services.
  • Slough Children's Services Trust - £1.4m to transform the staffing model by introducing Enhanced Hubs, a more dynamic way of delivering early help and support to children in need, introducing a practice model including Signs of Safety and a new domestic abuse assessment response.
  • Hackney Council - £2m to test "contextual safeguarding theory", by working with the University of Bedfordshire to create a system in which practitioners can appropriately assess and intervene when risk of harm comes from beyond an adolescent's family.
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