Education and care staff nervous over ‘rush’ to create children’s trusts

The government’s proposal to roll out children’s trusts in England
by 2006 has been criticised by leading figures in social care and
education as premature.

Speaking this week at a conference on children’s trusts, Christine
Davies, corporate director of education and culture at Telford and
Wrekin Council, said that evaluation of the pathfinder children’s
trusts – which were only announced in July – was essential before
the children’s green paper proposal went ahead.

“The government needs to evaluate the success of children’s trusts
before rolling them out across the country,” she said.

Helen Goody, social services and health programme manager at the
Local Government Association, agreed that it was “a bit premature
to roll something out when you don’t know how it is working”.

Goody also expressed concerns about the government’s target to have
trusts across the whole country by 2006.

“Partnership working is about giving up stuff and it takes time.
You can’t do it unless you trust the others around the table,” she

Andrew Christie, assistant director of children’s services at the
London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which is piloting a
children’s trust, agreed that the target was “ambitious” and
doubted it would be met. He added that a lack of evaluation would
mean that trusts had to “learn on the go”.

Goody went on to say that guidance for children’s trusts in the
green paper was more prescriptive than in the guidance for the
pathfinders. She argued that local authorities needed flexibility
in order to tailor services to their communities’ needs.

Davies described how the education sector would need some time to
get used to jointly commissioning services with health and social
services, as required under the children’s trust model. “Education
has come late to the commissioning process and it has got some
learning to do,” she said.

She added that although some in the education sector were sceptical
about how trusts would benefit them, she saw education as having a
lot to gain.

She said the new structure would help the sector to address issues
such as mental health and pupils’ behavioural problems.

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