Independent trust to take over Doncaster children’s services

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A newly-created independent trust is to take over children’s services in Doncaster after the Government decided Doncaster Council could not sort out the problems.

Today’s announcement by the Department for Education in Whitehall is a major disappointment to Doncaster’s new Mayor, Ros Jones, who feels they have not been given time to turn things round since a damning Ofsted report last November.

The new not-for-profit trust, due to come into operation in April 2014, will take on the current 700 staff involved in children’s services and set up operation in a new headquarters away from the Civic Office.

Doncaster Council will still retain responsibility for schools and education, but all children’s social work and care operations will become the remit of the new trust which will be in control for at least five years and possibly 10.

Children’s services staff were made aware of the announcement at 9.30am today.

The report published today, compiled by Prof Julian Le Grand, recommends removing all children’s services other than education from Doncaster Council and establish a new independent, not for profit Trust to deliver them.

The DfE said: “Our priority is to ensure that children receive the best protection and the highest standard of care.

“Professor Le Grand’s report finds very little evidence of improvement in Doncaster, and points to a culture of failure and disillusion which is obstructing reform. We will not stand by and allow children to be failed.

“In line with the recommendations we are also appointing a Commissioner for Children’s Social Care – reporting directly to the Education Secretary – to implement the reforms.

“The Commissioner will work closely with the Council, their improvement partner Impower and the Department to ensure careful transition to the Trust. These arrangements will continue until we are confident in Doncaster’s ability to deliver children’s services in the future.”

Prof Le Grand said he had not seen sufficient evidence that Doncaster can make the long term improvements needed to protect children.

“Further to this, the long-term culture of failure and disillusion that has inevitably obstructed reform cannot be allowed to continue. A line has to be drawn under the past.

“Reform must be managed carefully, which is why I have also recommended that a Commissioner for Children’s Social Care is appointed - reporting directly to the Education Secretary - to oversee the process.

“I know that there is real desire for change in Doncaster. For these reforms to be successful it is vital that the Council, elected members and the Department for Education now work together to secure the progress for children and families that they clearly wish to see.”

Mayor Ros Jones believes it is the wrong decision.

She said: “I have made it clear since the moment I was announced as Mayor that children’s services was my top priority and what matters above everything else is improving outcomes for Doncaster’s children and families. That remains the case.

“I am disappointed that it is being recommended that an independent trust is the way children’s services could be delivered in Doncaster. I don’t agree with the ‘outsourcing’ recommendation and feel that Doncaster Council has not been given the opportunity to show how we can improve under my leadership.

“We have only, this month, started work with our improvement partner and a new Director of Children’s Services and would have wanted to show how we can and will improve, however that opportunity has been denied us.

“We are one of two councils in the country which has taken the innovative step of working with an improvement partner and we believe we should not be distracted from improving children’s services. The report, in my view, is backward looking and historical and does not give enough credit or credence for what we want to achieve.”