Social workers will get “a seat at the top table” of a new independent trust set to run Birmingham’s children’s services from 2018, according to council leaders.
Brigid Jones, lead cabinet member for children’s services, told Community Care staff representatives will be involved in the governance of the trust, which the council intends to establish as a community interest company wholly owned by the local authority. If the plans are approved, the trust will run in shadow form from April ahead of a formal launch next year.
A cabinet report published today reveals Birmingham picked the community interest company model over an employee-owned mutual. However, elements of the mutual model will still be incorporated and the company will have “strong staff and union engagement including a role in governance arrangements,” the report said.
Strong staff representation
Jones told Community Care having strong staff representation was vital and would help improve communication between the frontline and senior management.
“Having a staff representative at the top table was important because it is a profession that has been done to a lot, and a profession that has been done down a lot. Actually it should be a very well respected profession. It deserves a seat at the top table”.
The proposals will be considered at a cabinet meeting today.
The cabinet report said the advantages of the CIC model included:
- Protecting assets for community purposes
- Surpluses would be re-invested in the company or local community
- It would have an asset lock, and can only be sold to another community interest company
- Would be obliged to pursue the community interest and has to report annually on how it does this to a CIC regulator.
The council reported that more than 600 staff attended information and engagement sessions.
“There has been support from staff, based on recognition of the potential benefits of a trust model including a single focus on children’s social care,” it said.
“This is set alongside an emphasis on the need for transparency in responding to staff uncertainty and anxiety during transition to the trust, and the need to adhere to the council’s principle on not being distracted from already secured and planned improvement work.”
Jones said staff “preferred” the idea of a wholly-owned company, adding: “We need our staff to buy into whatever we do”.
The council decided last year to establish a voluntary trust after a series of negative Ofsted inspections, and the announcement that an undercover documentary in the council’s child protection service would air on Channel 4.
The latest Ofsted inspection, published after the decision to move into a trust, also rated the council ‘inadequate’.