by Andy McNicoll and Luke Stevenson
Social workers and other social care staff in Birmingham could be handed ownership of the city’s children’s services, under proposals drawn up for a new trust model.
An employee-owned mutual, run as a “workers’ cooperative”, is one of two options for the trust being recommended to elected members at a meeting on Tuesday. The other model proposed would see the council own the trust.
In May, the council announced that it would be handing over control of the troubled children’s services to a trust after discussions with the Department for Education (DfE).
The two proposals for how the trust could be run were selected from a longlist of 19 alternative models drawn up by Birmingham council officials, consultancy firm Deloitte, and representatives from the DfE and the Children’s Commissioner’s office.
The shortlisting document claims some mutuals experience lower absenteeism and staff turnover and can “present opportunities for innovation, turning a profit and being resilient to changes in the economic climate”.
TUPE legislation would apply if local authority staff were transferred to the mutual. However, if the council did not have the ‘controlling’ stake, then the trust “may be able to lawfully change terms and conditions” for new employees from those offered by the local authority, the report added.
If the cabinet approves the two final proposals, both will get more design and development work before a final decision is made on which one to pursue. The council said either model could be run as a Community Interest Company, the status currently held by Achieving for Children, which runs children’s services in Kingston and Richmond.
Brigid Jones, Birmingham’s cabinet member for children, families and schools, said: “All options have been carefully examined and two have emerged that can accommodate the specified scope of the trust – what services are part of the trust and what stay within the council – whilst being flexible enough to adapt to future changes.
“There is still a lot of work to be done and we will continue to engage with staff and partners to ensure we have the model that is best suited to sustainable improvement.
“So as we move forward we must always keep in mind that this is ultimately about creating the best conditions to allow our best social workers to do great work with our children and families.”