Managers from Kent Council to take over Swindon social services

    The poorly-rated social services department of Swindon Council
    is to be taken over by managers from Kent Council in an effort to
    bring it up to scratch, writes David
    Harris
    .

    Under the deal, Swindon will pay Kent £3.66 million over
    three years to help manage its ailing social services in a unique
    arrangement that has received £1 million backing from the
    Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).

    Kent will supply senior officers who will oversee support,
    training and staff development, while Swindon continues the
    day-to-day running of the department.

    Swindon Council leader Mike Bawden put a brave face on the
    takeover and denied it was a reflection of failure.

    “It’s no secret that 18 months ago we had real
    problems with the way our social services department was
    run,” he said. “Since then we have made enormous
    progress and the new management team has addressed a huge number of
    the problems. However, there is still much to do and the pace of
    change is not fast enough, therefore we decided we needed to do
    something radical.”

    Ian Dobie, Swindon’s lead member for social services,
    added: “We could have bought in highly paid consultants from
    the private sector to help us provide better services. However,
    where better to turn than to a council that is rated as excellent
    and has three-stars for its social services?”

    Jerry Oliver, Swindon’s director of social services, went
    on a 12-month secondment in June to Swindon primary care trust in
    the role of integration and immediate project leader. No official
    reason for his secondment was given by the council and a
    spokesperson said that “in theory” he should return at
    the end of his secondment.

    Kent Council leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said it was looking to
    “help make Swindon social services something to be very proud
    of”.

    “We are very pleased to be the first council in the
    country to lead this new, systematic, locally driven approach to
    collaboration between councils,” he added.

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