Slough children's services to become independent trust

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Slough will become the second local authority to have its children's services transferred to an independent trust after children's minister Edward Timpson dismissed council proposals for alternative arrangements.

Slough Council will have to agree a timescale for transition to an independent trust by next month. Picture: Slough Council
Slough Council will have to agree a timescale for transition to an independent trust by next month. Picture: Slough Council

Timpson initially outlined his intention to create a trust in July, and confirmation of his decision follows a consultation period that ended last month.

A letter from Timpson to Slough Borough Council states that the option represents the “most effective and appropriate way of ensuring high-quality services for children and families”.

He said that counter-proposals put forward by the authority, details of which have not been released, would not “secure the necessary improvements”.

The decision to proceed with an independent trust makes Slough the second authority to be ordered by government to relinquish control of children’s services after a trust launched in Doncaster earlier this month.

The move was also announced on the same day that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan appointed an independent commissioner to oversee children’s services in Rotherham after Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw flagged up “widespread and serious failures” in child protection services at the authority.

Timpson’s letter to Slough reveals that Eleanor Brazil, director of children’s services in Doncaster, who previously oversaw the transition of the authority’s children’s services to a trust, has been appointed commissioner for children’s social care in Slough.

“As commissioner, she will be responsible for establishing the independent trust and for overseeing improvement to services until the trust is fully operational,” Timpson added.

“It will be important for the commissioner quickly to consider what further capacity the council may need to ensure improvements to services during this transitional period.”

It is as yet unclear whether Brazil has left the employment of Doncaster following the launch of its children’s trust.

Timpson said Slough must now work with Brazil and Department for Education officials to decide how the trust will be established.

A deadline of 3 November has been set for a joint memorandum of understanding to be agreed, which will include a planned timescale for the transition.

Timpson said a "limited" amount of funding will be provided so the authority can add the additional capacity to engage fully in these next steps as well as "other reasonable set-up costs".

The decision to create an independent trust in Slough comes after it was the first authority to be given a rating of "inadequate" under Ofsted’s tougher new inspection framework.

It had previously been inspected in May 2011, when, under the previous inspection framework, safeguarding arrangements were judged "inadequate" and the looked-after children’s services were judged "adequate".

The latest report, published in February, found there had been insufficient progress in the development of multi-agency child protection work between the police and children’s social care.

Inspectors also commented on the authority’s inability to recruit enough qualified and suitably experienced permanent social workers.

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