Sandwell Council’s children’s social care services are to be run by a trust despite Ofsted reporting ‘positive progress’ had been made.
The future of children’s care in the West Midlands borough has been in question since a critical Ofsted report in 2013 described the services as ‘ineffective’ and criticised the leadership and management.
Since then there have been discussions between the council and the Department of Education (DfE) concerning proposals to either move children’s social care to a voluntary trust or to appoint an executive commissioner to oversee care.
A recent Ofsted report found the council had made ‘positive progress’ and acknowledged social workers in Sandwell now had reduced caseloads as a result of additional investment by the council.
Inspectors also highlighted children were now being seen more quickly and where there is a child protection concern, they are seen on the same day they are referred to the service. They described this as ‘demonstrable improvement’.
However, despite this the Government has decided to transfer the services over to a trust.
Cllr Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children’s services, welcomed the positive feedback from Ofsted but said he was disappointed by the Government’s decision.
‘The Ofsted report indicates that we are moving in the right direction and making improvements to the service,’ he said.
‘However, we know there is more to do to improve the quality of social care and accept we must accelerate the pace of change. For this reason, we acknowledge intervention can help us reach the high standards we are determined to achieve.’
‘We have held extensive discussions with the Department for Education (DfE) about the future of children’s social care and made representations to the minister. We made it clear we do not agree that setting up a trust is the best way forward to improve services,’ the councillor continued.
‘While disappointed with the decision, our commitment and focus remains the same; making sure children are at the heart of everything we do and our priority is to ensure the trust is a success.’