Birmingham children's trust to launch April 2018

By Neil Puffett

| 16 January 2017

A new independent trust to run children's services in Birmingham will officially launch in April 2018, with the organisation taking the form of a company owned by the council, rather than an employee-owned mutual, it has emerged.

An independent trust will take over the running of the vast majority of children's services in Birmingham in April 2018. Picture: Birmingham City Council

Documents published by Birmingham City Council today reveal the local authority favours establishing an independent company owned wholly by the council, in the form of a community interest company, rather than a staff-owned mutual, an option that is deemed to carry a number of "significant risks".

The wholly owned company is deemed to be a better model for controlling costs and generating profits - something mutuals are currently legally prohibited from doing, the documents reveal.

It is feared a mutual could potentially be "too independent", making stepping in difficult in the event of any poor performance. It would also be complex to implement as it would be the first one in the country and would potentially take longer to set up.

The vast majority of children's services will transfer to the new organisation, with only early years, school nursing and health visiting, education services, and the virtual school for children in care, remaining the responsibility of Birmingham Council.

Brigid Jones, lead member for children, families, and schools at the local authority told CYP Now that the trust will be established in "shadow form" in April 2017, with the full launch coming 12 months later in April 2018.

She said the decision to wait until April 2018 for the full launch followed talks with the first two children's trusts in Doncaster and Slough revealed that they would have preferred to have had more time to finalise details.

"We took a whole team up to Doncaster and spent a day there to listen and find out how the transfer process had gone," she said.

"The feedback we got was they wish they had had a bit more lead-in time.

"There are a number of questions around which services should be in and out [of the transfer]. Having a shadow year gives us space to talk these things out." 

The proposals will be discussed at a meeting of Birmingham Council's cabinet on 24 January.

The local authority first announced that it intended launch a trust in May 2016, just days before the broadcast of a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary that featured an undercover social worker within the children's services department.

Birmingham's children's services have been rated "inadequate" since 2009.

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