Trust model to give council more power to improve social work pay

Birmingham council will consider 19 potential models for its children's services as a result of a report submitted by Deloitte

Photo: Chaiyapruek/Fotolia

Moving its children’s services to an independent trust would give Birmingham council more flexibility over social worker pay and employment packages, a report submitted to the council has said.

The report, which outlined 19 potential future models for the council’s children’s services, stated that “flexible packages of employment benefits are critical in recruiting and retaining the best staff”, while making the case for an alternative delivery model.

The report was written by consulting firm Deloitte for Europe’s largest local authority, which in May brought forward its announcement about plans to set up a voluntary trust in the wake of a critical undercover documentary filmed in its child protection team and multi-agency safeguarding hub.

In a parallel submission to the council, which will consider the Deloitte’s suggestions next Tuesday (26 July), council leaders also said a trust could address social worker pay and conditions.

Scarce resource

“Social workers are a scarce resource and the Trust must be well placed to compete by at least matching and preferably bettering current terms and conditions,” the document from the director of children’s services Peter Hay and lead cabinet member for children’s services Brigid Jones said.

Similar claims were made by the council’s ‘improvement quartet’, including Jones and Hay, in a report written last month.

They said: “The need to be able to attract and retain social workers requires a competitive salary, good working conditions and above all a feeling of being well managed and supported. These options could perhaps best be secured in the longer term within a Trust structure.”

While it is the early stages of planning, the council says that, as a trust or alternative model, children’s services would not be a part of the council and would have separate human resources functions. Not being part of the wider council would also allow any new organisation freedom and flexibility from rules imposed on the council.

Troubled Birmingham

The council has been rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted since 2009, and maintaining a stable workforce has been difficult throughout that time. In 2014, it was revealed that a quarter of the council’s social work posts were unfilled.  An Ofsted report published that year identified how “a number of frontline positions remain vacant and long-term sickness absence and vacancy rates, while improving, remain high and continue to pose a significant risk to securing risk to securing and retaining permanent experienced staff”. A commissioner had been in place continuously since 2013 before the decision was made earlier this year, as a result of the Dispatches documentary, to move children services into a voluntary trust.

Also among the 19 options the council will consider next week is the potential for a shared service with another local authority, employing executive commissioners, or setting up a wholly-owned council company.

While Deloitte accepted that there is “limited precedent in the sector to prove, with evidence, the positive impact of moving to an alternative delivery model, particularly on a voluntary basis,” it insisted a new model would help drive improvements by removing barriers.

‘Unwavering focus’

“A children’s services Trust model would be predominantly about children’s social work services and can represent that sole purpose with a strong, clear voice to the council, partners and to the city. It can mobilise more joint commissioning and support better joined up thinking and partnering. Above all, its business is children and can be designed in a way that supports a single and unwavering focus on providing the best services to children, young people and families,” it said.

If the council agrees to the case for change made by the report, an appraisal of all 19 models proposed would be submitted by September by a newly established programmer board.

Following cabinet approval, work would then begin on developing the preferred trust model, with full implementation of a new model expected by March 2018.


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6 Responses to Trust model to give council more power to improve social work pay

  1. Andy Foster July 21, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    Birmingham, or indeed any other local authority come to think of it, can have as many models as it likes from which to determine the future direction of its Children’s Services. However, the quasi-academic and fashionable consultants appear to offer only structure over substance. In short, your piece does not, on a single occasion or indeed anywhere in the narrative, mention the fundamental issue of safeguarding and procting children. Brexit, a new Prime Minister, Sam Allardyce, Boris Johnson and political leadership battles seemingly de rigeur, I guess nothing ought to surprise us anymore.

  2. Elliot Jonew July 21, 2016 at 12:56 pm #

    It does not matter how much you pay people, if a council has a bad image then people won’t work there as displayed in the channel four documentary into Birmingham where most of the staff (including managers) were agency staff.

    I work in the third sector and I can honestly say I would work for a LA ever again, my quality of life is far better and I actually make a difference instead of head banging and covered in red tape. I am also puzzled into the reports account of pay because with public funds being cut all the time I’m not really sure they can justify paying people more when some could argue that people get paid a decent salary anyway.

    Recipe for disaster for me personally.

    • Amy July 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

      You’re contradicting yourself – you say will never work for a LA again as you have better work/life balance now and job satisfaction yet you don’t agree with offering social workers in LAs more pay ? How do you propose they fill what are essential roles performing a statutory function without offering people some kind of incentive to do work that many people, you included, don’t want to do?

  3. NQSW July 21, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    I did my social work placement in Birmingham last year and whilst I enjoyed it and learnt a lot, staff had a distrust in management structures. The management themselves have little motivation to recruit. They are quite happy sitting on agency staff. The management like the status quo and don’t like new people and new ideas.
    However there are glimmers of hope in Birmingham, let’s hope the trust doesn’t overshadow this.

  4. Andrea July 25, 2016 at 3:34 pm #

    HOw much did Birmingham pay Deloitte?

    • Jolyon Jones July 27, 2016 at 5:48 pm #