Allowing schools to opt out of children’s trusts will undermine multi-agency working, according to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.
ADCS vice-president Matt Dunkley said the participation of all multi-agency partners in trusts reduced costs and eased pressure on the social care system. Breaking up trusts, he warned, could lead to agencies seeing integration “as a luxury rather than a financial necessity”.
Such fears appear justified with the National Association of Head Teachers saying many schools were likely to take advantage of the opt out.
“With the upcoming period of austerity, increased pressure on schools just isn’t going to assist that process,” said association president Mike Welsh. “If society wants to expect this role from schools, they have to provide the resources for it.”
Education secretary Michael Gove last week announced an Education Bill would be published in the autumn, allowing schools to opt out of the current statutory duty to co-operate, which will still be in place for other partners. It will also remove the duty on councils to set up trust boards and produce annual children and young people’s plans.
A Department for Education spokeswoman denied that trusts were being abolished or losing their teeth.
“We are not planning to repeal…the duty to co-operate, which is the statutory underpinning of children’s trusts and continues to apply to local authorities and their health and youth justice partners. So it is wrong to say we are abolishing children’s trusts,” she said.
Schools were made included in children’s trusts in January this year because, as the main universal provider of children’s services they were seen as key to effective early intervention and preventive work.