Children’s services are now being run independently of the local authority in an 11th area of England, after Northamptonshire Children’s Trust launched last week.
The trust hit its revised launch date of 1 November despite the turbulence caused by the recent resignation of chair Ian Curryer, following concerns over his suitability raised by Northamptonshire council leaders.
The trust’s creation was ordered by the government last year after Ofsted identified a substantial decline in the county’s services, amid significant social worker shortfalls and unmanageable caseloads, and against the backdrop of longstanding financial problems across the council. The original launch date of July 2020 was pushed back to prioritise the council’s Covid-19 response.
The trust will be owned by the county council and, from April 2021, two new unitary authorities that will replace the county and seven district councils. Statutory responsibility for children’s services will remain with county director of children’s services Cathi Hadley and her unitary successors, however, the trust will be operationally independent.
Independently-run children’s services
- Birmingham (Birmingham Children’s’ Trust)
- Doncaster (Doncaster Children’s Services Trust)
- Kingston (Achieving for Children)
- Northamptonshire (Northamptonshire Children’s Trust)
- Reading (Brighter Futures for Children)
- Richmond (Achieving for Children)
- Sandwell (Sandwell Children’s Trust)
- Slough (Slough Children’s Services Trust)
- Sunderland (Together for Children)
- Windsor and Maidenhead (Achieving for Children)
- Worcestershire (Worcestershire Children First)
The government-appointed children’s commissioner tasked with helping Northamptonshire turn round its children’s services, Andrew Christie, said: “This is a momentous day for the children and families of Northamptonshire. One that will see a reinvigorated future for children’s services across the county, providing timely and appropriate support to those who need it most.”
He said he would continue in his role “to support the trust in its early life to ensure that it is embedded and ready to take on this important improvement journey”.
Following Curryer’s resignation in September, Christie’s fellow commissioner, Clare Chamberlain, became interim chair of the trust.
She said: “As an organisation focused solely on children’s social care, we are dedicated to continue improvements in our services to enhance the lives and life chances of vulnerable children, young people and their families.”
Despite the trust’s establishment, the council remains under the direction of the Department for Education to improve children’s services in the county.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford said: “We will not hesitate to intervene when services are not good enough, and will continue supporting the new trust, the county council and subsequently the two new authorities as they take on their responsibilities, working together to do better for children in Northamptonshire.”
Jane Birch, shadow cabinet member for children’s services for the Labour opposition on Northamptonshire council, said Covid-19 made it a challenging time to be launching the trust, and she was concerned about the sufficiency of its budget.
But she added: “The trust being launched is a fresh start, a new place a new beginning. The hope is that that will build enough hope within the social work profession to recruit experienced social workers.”