Kent to step in at Swindon in £3.7m social services supervision takeover

    Swindon Council’s failing social services department is to be taken
    over by managers from Kent Council in an effort to bring it up to
    scratch.

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

    Kent, whose social services department was given three stars in
    last year’s ratings, will supply senior officers to 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 despite having received a
    zero rating for the past two years.

    “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 brought 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. A spokesperson
    said that “in theory” he should return at the end of the
    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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