Council could give ownership of children’s services to social workers

‘Workers’ cooperative’ put forward as one of two trust models for Birmingham’s troubled children’s services

Photo: Olivier Le Moal/Fotolia

by Andy McNicoll and Luke Stevenson

Social workers and other social care staff in Birmingham could be handed ownership of the city’s children’s services, under proposals drawn up for a new trust model.

An employee-owned mutual, run as a “workers’ cooperative”, is one of two options for the trust being recommended to elected members at a meeting on Tuesday. The other model proposed would see the council own the trust.

In May, the council announced that it would be handing over control of the troubled children’s services to a trust after discussions with the Department for Education (DfE).

The two proposals for how the trust could be run were selected from a longlist of 19 alternative models drawn up by Birmingham council officials, consultancy firm Deloitte, and representatives from the DfE and the Children’s Commissioner’s office.

The shortlisting document claims some mutuals experience lower absenteeism and staff turnover and can “present opportunities for innovation, turning a profit and being resilient to changes in the economic climate”.

Final decision

TUPE legislation would apply if local authority staff were transferred to the mutual. However, if the council did not have the ‘controlling’ stake, then the trust “may be able to lawfully change terms and conditions” for new employees from those offered by the local authority, the report added.

If the cabinet approves the two final proposals, both will get more design and development work before a final decision is made on which one to pursue. The council said either model could be run as a Community Interest Company, the status currently held by Achieving for Children, which runs children’s services in Kingston and Richmond.

Brigid Jones, Birmingham’s cabinet member for children, families and schools, said: “All options have been carefully examined and two have emerged that can accommodate the specified scope of the trust – what services are part of the trust and what stay within the council – whilst being flexible enough to adapt to future changes.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and we will continue to engage with staff and partners to ensure we have the model that is best suited to sustainable improvement.

“So as we move forward we must always keep in mind that this is ultimately about creating the best conditions to allow our best social workers to do great work with our children and families.”

4 Responses to Council could give ownership of children’s services to social workers

  1. Danny Fletcher September 17, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    Exciting acknowledgement of the professional capability of the social work profession

  2. Hilton Dawson September 19, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    If this initiative is given the resources and the real responsibility to manage itself this could be the best opportunity for high quality social practice in years.
    Let’s get behind professional colleagues looking to take this on.

  3. LongtimeSW September 19, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    . . . . . . or privatisation of social work by the back door?

    “However, if the council did not have the ‘controlling’ stake, then the trust “may be able to lawfully change terms and conditions” for new employees from those offered by the local authority, the report added.”

    When was the last time ‘changed terms and conditions’ were better for the transferred employees?

  4. A Man Called Horse September 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm #

    You can be sure that your term and conditions will be cut and you might lose access to Local Government Pension Scheme. TUPE not worth the paper it is not written on. The best way to make profits is axe terms and conditions, do not bleat if that happens, you have been warned. The Best Way to improve children’s services is to end Austerity in the public sector. The relentless rise in poverty under the Tories is responsible for the collapse of may families. Vote Corbyn and get rid of this Tory rubbish.