Council outlines plans to hive off children's services
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Another council has announced plans to set up an independent trust to run its struggling children's services department.
Northamptonshire County Council is looking to become the third local authority to transfer the running of its children’s services to an arms-length, council-owned organisation.
The move is part of a council-wide initiative to deliver services via standalone enterprises that have been revealed in its draft budget.
The Conservative-run council hopes the creation of the trust will save £9m by creating more stability in its children's social care workforce and being less reliant on agency staff, the bill for which is £22m annually.
The draft budget also proposes to increase spending by £5m on its children and families services.
The council’s children’s services department was judged as "inadequate" by Ofsted in 2013.
If approved by councillors, the children’s trust could begin operating from September 2016.
Heather Smith, the council's deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said the creation of the trust would “enhance services for children and families across Northamptonshire”.
She added: “One of the key benefits of a trust model is the flexibility it can give in relation to the workforce. We will be able to significantly improve the terms and conditions for our permanent staff in order to reduce our dependence on costly agency workers. As a result the trust model will also be more affordable and deliver a more stable workforce.”
Northamptonshire’s plans to transfer its children services were first mooted earlier this year amid concerns from charity umbrella body Children England around services for vulnerable children being placed arm's length from the council.
Children England chief executive Kathy Evans welcomed Northamptonshire’s intention to increase spending on children and family services, but continues to have concerns about the move.
She said: “It is not clear that changing to new management structures for any council's children's services will be enough to solve the grave problems seen in all councils, of rising need and demand for children's services, alongside severe cuts to council budgets.
“New trusts and outsourcing really can't be seen as any automatic or immediate solution for councils.”
In September, an independent trust was set up by Slough Council to run children’s services, the second to make such a move after Doncaster Council in October 2014.