Government removes children’s services from council’s control

Sandwell council leader says he is "disappointed" with decision from ministers to impose trust model on the troubled children's services

Children's minister Edward Timpson Picture: Rex/Shutterstock

Sandwell children’s services is to be transferred to an independent children’s trust and taken out of local authority control, the government has announced.

Children’s minister Edward Timpson told Sandwell’s leaders the government had intervened because the council had “failed its most vulnerable children and young people for approaching seven years”.

He said the trust should be established by the end of 2017 and acknowledged that the move would trigger some anxiety “among key groups in Sandwell, notably your social workers”.

“However, given your commitment to work constructively with me and my officials, I am optimistic that some reassurance can be provided quite quickly on a number of points related to trusts, including – for instance – the terms and conditions on which social workers transfer to a trust,” he added.

Cannot deliver

The decision followed a review of the council’s children’s services by Eleanor Brazil, who the government appointed as a commissioner in Sandwell following concerns over performance. Brazil concluded “the council on its own cannot deliver what is needed” and recommended removing the services from local authority control.

“I believe that a period of time is needed when the service is not in the direct control of the council to create the impetus needed to deliver robust and sustainable leadership.

“However, this should be achieved working closely with the council,” Brazil said.

The report found “the strengths of good social work practice are poorly understood and until very recently have not received sufficient attention”.

“Whilst there has been some progress over the past two years, it has not been fast enough nor has it had the impact on the quality of practice needed. Too many children are still in receipt of an inadequate service,” Brazil said.

Industrial action

In February social workers at the council’s Unison branch voted unanimously for a motion calling for a ballot for industrial action if children’s services were moved to a trust.

In a statement issued today the local Unison branch said it would seek “urgent guarantees” on a pay and pensions before balloting for a strike.

Tony Barnsley, the branch secretary, said: “Creating uncertainty over the future pay and pensions of our members does nothing to improve the service to children. In fact creating this uncertainty can only make it worse since some will vote with their feet and leave Sandwell.”

He said if assurances are not made about the future of pay and pensions for social workers, the union will ballot for industrial action.

“If our members to choose to take strike action they will receive our fullest support.”

Brazil’s report acknowledged the concerns raised by staff, but said it was “not clear what resulted from those discussions, or what if any, active steps were taken by the unions to positively impact on the quality of the service”.

Concerns

Timpson, also acknowledging social work concerns, said he hoped the transfer of services offered an opportunity to demonstrate the benefits to social workers of making a fresh start.

“I am sure that a new vision for children’s social care, the opportunity to work with excellent leaders and the very real prospect that – in time – your children’s social care services could be Good or we hope even better can be attractive to many people in Sandwell, including the council’s partners and social workers,” he said.

Plans for the trust need to be brought forward by the council from December 1.

The government has appointed Malcolm Newsam, to work with the council to establish the trust and continue with improvements during the interim period.

Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children’s services in Sandwell, said the council did not feel setting up a trust was the best way to improve services.

“While disappointed with the decision, our commitment and focus remains the same; making sure children are at the heart of everything we do and our priority is to ensure the trust is a success.”

He said Ofsted had found improvements in its most recent inspection and that the council was moving in the right direction.

“Our employees will play a crucial role in the process of creating an environment of high quality social care.”

 

 

8 Responses to Government removes children’s services from council’s control

  1. Faye October 6, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    Just another example of the Tories destroying what little we have left of the welfare state. What the service probably needs in more investment and funding – its impossible to do a decent job without enough staff and resources.

    • H October 6, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

      Have you seen what a trust has done in slough? They have improved childrens services ten fold.

      • LongtimeSW October 7, 2016 at 10:50 am #

        Really? – Wait and see – when the profits start falling, (as will happen in the services that will be ‘outsourced’ to a private company from the trust), they will run for the hills leaving what’s left of the public sector to pick up the pieces – this has always been about this Central Govt strangling Local Authorities as they don’t believe in them – they want their mates in the City to take over so that they can end their days on the boards of these companies – check out how many ex-MP’s are on the boards of Capita, Amey Roadstone Company, Virgin care etc.

      • MrMoonx October 10, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

        slough is haemorrhaging staff left right and centre, I don’t think thats a good sign

    • Miss Mel October 26, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

      Blaming the Tories! You all need to take a good long hard look at yourselves. Public servants only interested in their final salary pensions.

  2. Fiona October 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I am intrigued by the comment by Brazil about the unions, ‘what if any, active steps were taken by the unions to positively impact on the quality of the service’. I generally thought the role of a Union was to represent its members?

  3. LongtimeSW October 7, 2016 at 11:00 am #

    TUPE? – Colleagues – you will be shafted at the point of TUPE and when the trust model fails and the vultures have come in to pick over the bones you will be shafted again – bottom line is you have every right to take whatever action you need to to protect your livelihood and the families you work with –

    By the way how much is Mr Newsam to be paid out of public funds having been ‘appointed’ by the Govt.?

    Only asking . . . . .

  4. N October 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    Sadly, it’s a sign of the times and definitely part of central government agenda. Here in the Midlands 8 council run adoption departments are combining together with 3 voluntary sector agencies essentially making a super (academy style) Midlands adoption agency. I have worked for Local authorities for 20 years but to keep a job I love, I am being forced out of my current employment. This isn’t to do with under performing services as we will be a right mixed bag with even 1 agency having outstanding from ofsted. It is simply the government’s agenda to privatise 🙁