The Department of Health has distanced itself from reports that
private sector agencies will be responsible for the children’s
trusts announced in last month’s spending review.
The spending review white paper Opportunity and Security for All
said the government would “pilot children’s trusts which will unify
at the local level the various agencies involved in providing
services to children”. A DoH spokesperson said pilot schemes would
become operational at the end of 2003. “Children’s trusts will
enable local partners to jointly plan, commission and deliver
services for children,” she said. “We do not want to dictate the
coverage of trusts – local partners will need to look at what works
for local communities.”
The government said that trusts could include services for
disabled children, children with special education needs, child
protection services, services for children at risk, speech and
language therapy services, and mental health services.
But it has left the door open for partnerships in any area
“where social care, health and education services need to work
Although health minister Jacqui Smith is believed to want trusts
to remain under the control of elected councillors, she is reported
to be facing pressure from the Cabinet to delegate responsibility
for child welfare to management teams drawn from the private
“There is likely to be a role for the private sector but I don’t
think that we are considering handing the trusts over to the
private sector,” the DoH spokesperson said.
Despite surprise in the sector that plans were being drawn up
before the publication of Lord Laming’s recommendations from the
Victoria Climbie Inquiry, the proposals have been generally
Liz Atkins, head of policy for the NSPCC, said the trusts echoed
the multi-agency teams called for by the charity, although did not
appear to include a role for the police.
Clem Henricson, policy and resource manager at the National
Family and Parenting Institute, said: “The trusts would lead to
stronger accountability as partnerships would have a legal
requirement to work together.”
The NFPI would like to see the partnerships become a statutory
requirement, as a voluntary scheme would not be adopted in areas
where problems with joint working arise.
In a report published last week, the NFPI called for planning
for children’s services and family services to be merged.
The aim – which appears to complement the government’s plans for
children’s trusts – would be to create a broad service that would
provide support throughout a child’s development in and outside the
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