Children’s trusts can be “virtual” organisations based on
pooled budgets rather than new structures, and will not mean any
staff have to be transferred.
The Children Bill, the legislative framework for many of the
reforms outlined in the green paper Every Child Matters,
was published last month to provide the “legislative spine” for
far-reaching changes in the way public services deal with children,
according to children’s minister Margaret Hodge.
The Bill applies in England only, except where the Welsh
Assembly has asked for provisions to apply in Wales.
The Bill will introduce:
- Shared statutory outcomes for children across a range of public
services. These are: to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy and
achieve, to make a positive contribution, and to achieve economic
- A children’s commissioner for England, working towards
the same set of outcomes, and reporting annually to parliament. The
commissioner will not investigate individual cases, but will be
free to report on any issue of concern.
- A duty on local authorities to ensure robust partnership
arrangements with other local agencies to improve the well being of
children in the area.
- Key statutory agencies must have regard to the need to
safeguard and promote the welfare of children in discharging their
- Statutory boards to replace area child protection committees,
with duties to ensure the effectiveness of local arrangements and
services to safeguard children.
- Children’s trusts will be “virtual” organisations formed
through the pooling of budgets to secure integrated commissioning
of services rather than statutory organisations. They will not
necessitate structural change or staff transfers and although they
are “expected” in every area by 2008 and in most by 2006, these
deadlines will not be subject to legislation.
- A director of children’s services in every local
authority whose duties will cover as a minimum the responsibilities
relating to children currently held by chief education officers and
directors of social services. No deadline for appointments but
expectation that all will have one by 2008. Flexibility about how
duties are discharged. In Wales there will be a requirement to
nominate a lead director for children’s services rather than
appoint a single director.
- Lead council member for children’s services to cover same
span as director of children’s services.
- Integrated inspection by Ofsted of children’s services
within a new framework.
- New powers of intervention in line with those relating to
education where children’s social services are
- Education secretary can require databases to be set up to
enable information about children to be shared between agencies,
but only after secondary legislation which would have to be
explicitly agreed by parliament.
The Bill also:
- Gives local authorities a duty to promote the educational
achievement of looked after children.
- Removes the current power to take children in breach of a Child
Safety Order into care under a lower threshold than usual and
extends the maximum duration of the order to 12 months.