Charities criticise Hodge’s plan to take struggling trusts from councils

Government plans to take failing children’s trusts away from local
authorities and give them to voluntary or private providers came
under fire this week.

In a media interview last week, children’s minister Margaret Hodge
said that where a children’s trust was failing to provide good
quality services, the government would intervene and pass control
to either another trust, or a voluntary or private sector

Chris Hanvey, UK director of operations at children’s charity
Barnardo’s, said that becoming involved to this extent and taking
on formal statutory responsibilities was something that “most
voluntary organisations would want to think about hard”.

“The reason I think people build relationships with voluntary
sector workers is that we don’t have those statutory

“This would put a very different light on that relationship with
our service users. We would not be the voluntary sector any more.
There would also be less opportunity for innovation. And it would
make fund-raising more difficult, because people would see it as
subsidising government services.”

Hanvey also doubted whether private providers would be interested
in taking control, even if the idea were legally viable.

“The failing or death of a child would have all the same
reverberations for a children’s trust [as it does for a social
services department now] and a lot of negative publicity.”

Erica De’Ath, chief executive of the National Council of Voluntary
Child Care Organisations, insisted that, although the voluntary
sector could play a key role in co-ordinating services, “overall
responsibility has to lie with one of the statutory

She added that if children’s trusts were supposed to be
commissioning bodies it would be “extremely difficult” for the
voluntary sector to commission services using education, health and
social services’ budgets without their co-operation.

In addition, it would be difficult for elected members to pass over
responsibility for budgets to the voluntary sector, which is not
publicly accountable.

She would rather see how the voluntary sector could be enabled to
work with children’s trusts to ensure that they did not fail.

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