Doncaster council has made a last ditch attempt to retain legal responsibility for children’s social care in the city after ministers announced the service would be outsourced.
In a report submitted to the Department for Education (Dfe) this week, Doncaster mayor Ros Jones argued that the plan – devised by London School of Economics Professor Julian Le Grand – to outsource the city’s children’s services to an independent trust is flawed.
Jones said the proposal would weaken accountability, lead to confusion in the commissioning of services and hamper the ability of children’s social care to work with other council services in the city.
The report also states that the proposal drawn up by London School of Economics Professor Julian Le Grand fails to recognise recent improvements made by the authority and that the lack of public consultation about the plan could result in a legal challenge that might delay its implementation.
Instead, Jones proposes an alternative arrangement where the council, rather than a government-appointed commissioner, would be put in charge of setting up, with support from the DfE, an independent trust to oversee children’s social services in the city.
Under the proposal, Doncaster’s director of children’s services would become the chief executive of the trust, while the board of the trust would consist of senior leaders from other local agencies. Finally staff would be seconded to the trust so would still be able to access the Local Government Pension Scheme.
The report says this approach would provide more accountability and stronger links with other services than Le Grand’s model.
“I have to reiterate my disappointment in not being able to finish what I had started with improvements to children’s services,” said Jones, who was elected as the city’s mayor in May this year.
ADCS backs alternative
“However I am not short-sighted in realising that if the government is determined to follow an independent trust route, that we need to influence this as much as possible to encourage a model that we know will work and not subject our children to an experimental model.
“After all, this has not been tried or tested when delivering children’s safeguarding services anywhere else in the city.”
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has given its backing to Doncaster’s alternative proposal. “As democratically elected bodies, local authorities should be in control of their local services,” said ADCS president Andrew Webb.
“The ADCS acknowledges and shares Doncaster’s analysis of the complexities of the legal issues created by the recommendations in Professor Le Grand’s report – these raise serious questions of accountability and need to be addressed head-on before any further action is taken.”
The DfE said it would consider Doncaster’s response and respond in “due course”.
Will Doncaster’s children be safer under outsourced social care management?