Council to give £5 million bailout to children’s services trust

Sandwell council allocates extra funding to keep up with the cost of services at independent organisation set up in wake of 'inadequate' inspections

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A council will give a £5 million bailout to an independent children’s services trust set up to run its children’s services.

Sandwell’s cabinet accepted a report yesterday to give the trust the additional funds to help it fill a budget deficit identified in the 2018/19 financial year.

The money is to help the trust manage the increase demand on the service, in particular the numbers of children in care, which Ofsted said in May “is at the highest level ever experienced by the local authority and the Trust”.

The money will come from council reserves, and not from reducing local authority spending elsewhere.

Sandwell Children’s Trust launched last year after the council was stripped of control of its services following two ‘inadequate’ Ofsted inspections. A recent monitoring visit found it was making some improvements from a low base.

The children’s services trust’s financial struggles come in the wake of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, the flagship of the independent trust approach to children’s social care, reverting to council rather than member ownership after needing £6 million in additional funding in 2018-19.

Sandwell’s children’s services trust model means the organisation is already wholly owned by the local authority.

‘A number of difficulties’

In an interview with local newspaper, The Express & Star, Sandwell’s new council leader Yvonne Davies said the council would agree the £5 million and work closely with the children’s services trust to ensure improvements in children’s services.

“The trust has gone through a number of difficulties, one of which was the flawed business case that was set out in the first place,” Davies told The Express & Star.

She added the council would have a closer overview of the finances, where they are going and how they will be turned around.

“And, I think, that in two years time we will have a children’s trust that will be able to operate within the parameters it has set itself and by the council.

“But make no mistake, ultimately, if the trust fails it is the failure of the council.”

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