In­ad­e­quate chil­dren’s care ser­vice handed to new trust

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

THE pro­tec­tion and care of “at risk” chil­dren in Sandwell is set to rad­i­cally change as 1,580 young­sters, 550 staff and £58 mil­lion are trans­ferred to a gov­ern­ment-im­posed trust next week.

The Sandwell Chil­dren’s Trust will be­gin work af­ter the ex­ist­ing coun­cil­run depart­ment was re­peat­edly de­scribed as ‘in­ad­e­quate’ by Of­sted.

The trans­fer takes place af­ter a mas­sive in­crease in the num­ber of chil­dren in care in the bor­ough, from 552 in April 2104 to 722 by Jan­uary this year. In an­other 850 plans.

The al­most 40 per cent in­crease in Sandwell cases has come as na­tional gov­ern­ment im­posed year-on-year fund­ing cuts to lo­cal coun­cils.

In 2017 the gov­ern­ment or­dered the au­thor­ity to trans­fer its ‘lookedafter-chil­dren’ ser­vice to the new body. It is one of only five in Eng­land de­liv­er­ing ser­vices for seven coun­cils and will run Sandwell ser­vices for the next ten years. ad­di­tion, on child there are pro­tec­tion

For­mer Home Sec­re­tary Smith has been ap­pointed to the new trust.

In Jan­uary she said: “We are un­der no il­lu­sions about the size of the chal­lenge ahead of us as we move to­wards launch­ing the Sandwell Chil­dren’s Trust. It re­mains an ex­cit­ing and real op­por­tu­nity to im­prove the lives of the most vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren and fam­i­lies in Sandwell.”

Ms Smith this week pre­sented the trust’s plans for the fu­ture of the ser­vice to coun­cil­lors at a meet­ing Jac­qui chair Sandwell Board.

The ser­vice has been one of the coun­cil’s most crit­i­cal and ex­pen­sive de­part­ments. Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 Na­tional Au­dit Of­fice re­port, foster care can cost as much as £27,000 a year per child. while place­ments in chil­dren’s homes can amount to £135,000 each. In com­par­i­son, the fa­mous Har­row pub­lic school charges £39,000 a year.

Schools and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices will re­main un­der the con­trol of the Health and Well­be­ing coun­cil, and the new trust will be over­seen by lo­cal coun­cil­lors but will ul­ti­mately an­swer to the gov­ern­ment.

A Depart­ment for Ed­u­ca­tion spokesper­son said: “Keep­ing chil­dren safe is of para­mount im­por­tance, and this gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to tack­ling fail­ure in chil­dren’s so­cial care.

“That’s why we are putting the Sandwell Chil­dren’s Trust in place, which will take over the de­liv­ery of ser­vices in April.”

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