Suffolk Council has admitted the re-evaluation of local authority statutory duties could help it outsource nearly all its public services, including child protection.
Lawyers had claimed that the current legal duties on child protection were a potential obstacle to the council’s proposals, which it has been discussing since last autumn last. However, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) this month announced it was consulting on which duties councils should keep and which can be discarded or changed.
“Protecting vulnerable adults and children remains a guiding priority as Suffolk Council looks at how it can deliver local services differently,” said Councillor Graham Newman, portfolio holder for children, schools and young people’s services. “The reduction in Whitehall red tape to free up local decision-making and allow us to channel resources more effectively has to be good news.”
The council has started to look at ways to deliver health and care services through local trusts. Newman said the trusts would be delivery organisations, while overall responsibility, democratic accountability and strategic decision-making would remain with the council.
Children’s social care groups are worried by the consultation despite children’s minister Tim Loughton’s reassurance that he did not expect any “significant changes” to council safeguarding duties.
“Safeguarding just happens to be on a very long list of statutory duties that the DCLG is looking at,” he said last week. “There’s a great long list of everything from our department. There is nothing significant about safeguarding being on that list.
“I do not envisage any significant changes in the responsibilities around safeguarding and child protection. If I did, I would not have commissioned Professor Eileen Munro to come up with recommendations for how local authorities can be doing safeguarding better.”
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