Doncaster’s children’s services to be brought back in house due to financial pressures on trust

Doncaster Council is proposing to bring its children’s services back in house due to continued financial pressures on its arms-length organisation.
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The council is set to serve notice on the contract with Doncaster Children’s Services Trust (DCST) an arm’s length management company (ALMO) wholly owned by Doncaster Council for the delivery of children’s social care services.

It is expected services will be back solely in council hands by September 2022. From April 1 until the handover, there will be consultation with staff and trade unions.

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There will be no loss of jobs, as all posts will be transferred to the council as the new employer, DMBC bosses said.

Doncaster Children's Services TrustDoncaster Children's Services Trust
Doncaster Children's Services Trust

All parties believe that this is the ‘logical next step in the journey’ of children’s services in Doncaster.

Former Secretary of State Michael Gove ordered the council to transfer its social care services to an independent trust back in 2013 following high profile scandals in children’s social care.

A review found a ‘culture of failure and disillusion’ at Doncaster that ‘pervades the service and serves to obstruct every attempt at reform’.

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In January 2021, a letter was received from the Children’s Minister communicating the lifting of all Directions in respect of the delivery of children’s social care.

The Department for Education subsequently withdrew financial support to DCST when the direction was revoked.

Council bosses said this was an ‘unusual and extended period’ of Directions under the DfE.

The latest Ofsted report shows that DCST has a ‘Good rating’ by Government inspectors.

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Riana Nelson, Doncaster Council’s lead officer on children’s social care, said: “Like many other frontline services, children’s social care has been significantly impacted by the pandemic and it is vital that we react to these changes quickly and efficiently to ensure that we are in a position to support our children to achieve the best possible outcomes.

“We have been working very closely and successfully with the Trust on a rapid improvement plan since October 2021, which has allowed us to make some significant progress in important areas such as our Early Help offer.

“In order to take this to the next level what we now need is to be able to adapt and improve at an even quicker pace and we do not want to be impeded by a working model that could potentially slow down our aspirations for children across the borough.”

Debbie Hogg, Doncaster Council’s director of corporate resources, said the realignment of the services will ‘deliver lower overheads’ to ensure spend is ‘directed to front line delivery’.