Children’s Social Services Handed To Trust

Birmingham’s deteriorating children’s social services department is to be placed into a trust, as per the announcement by the Department for Education.

Keegan, also recognized as Shi-Anne, Downer with foster mother, Candyce Downer.

The Department for Education have been thoroughly observing the struggling service over the past few years and they have come to a decision, following discussions with the Labour-run council that a voluntary trust ought to run social care in Birmingham.

This idea has formerly been overruled by a number of Labour councillors as ‘privatisation’ of the facility.

However, it seems that there is no other choice, despite the service having completed two thirds of a three-year improvement plan that was proposed by former government troubleshooter Lord Warner.

This decision comes after the tragic death of Keegan, also recognized as Shi-Anne, Downer who was an 18-month-old baby that was beaten to death by her foster mother. She had been placed with Kandyce Downer by Birmingham social services. There is still an ongoing case review into the death.

The service has been graded as inadequate since 2009 and has already been through six senior managers since then.

The announcement has stirred much emotion in people, bringing forth a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation to be screened this Thursday, which will not help matters any and instead, puts the service in a bad light.

A council statement said: “As part of Birmingham City Council’s improvement journey, it is the intention to move to a new model of children’s services – a voluntary trust.

“We are now at the start of the third year of our agreed improvement journey plan and it is acknowledged by our children’s services commissioner that expected progress has been made.

“Key to this has been putting families at the centre of social work. It is now the time to consider a model that has social workers at its centre.

“This is something we have been discussing for some time with the Department for Education and this is the next logical step on our improvement journey.

“In moving to the next phase, Birmingham City Council and the Department for Education are committed to working together, along with our members, staff, partners and trades unions, on details of how the trust will operate.”

It also added that a complete proposal will be put to cabinet following the discussion.

The change has been welcomed by Matt Bennett, the opposition Conservative children’s services spokesman, who was in charge of the service in 2011/12 .

He said: “It is disappointing that the efforts made to improve safeguarding have not been sufficient but it does not come as a surprise to me.

“The culture within Birmingham children’s services is so deeply damaged that I simply don’t think it was ever possible to change it from within the council – many have tried and failed over the last few years.

“However, this latest development is rather at odds with the report received last year which gave a rather more positive spin on the ‘improvement journey’.

“We called for greater transparency at same meeting so we could have greater assurance things were going as well as we were told they were but our motion was voted down by Labour.”

He also pointed out that the Conservatives recently nominated a proposal for the service to be placed in trust but this was voted down by Labour and condemned as “privatisation”.

He added: “Whatever model we have and whoever is responsible for delivering it, there will still be a huge amount of work to do to turn things around,”

“We must have greater openness and transparency going forward so that performance can be properly scrutinised and challenged and we must put ideology about ‘public vs private’ to one side.

“If it makes our children safer, I don’t really care who employs the social workers. “I hope that, by moving children’s social care away from the broken culture of Birmingham City Council, we can at last begin to make our children and young people safer.”



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