The secretary of state for education has issued a statutory direction which gives Stoke-on-Trent City Council three months to establish a partnership with another council to deliver children’s social care.
Ofsted rated Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s children’s services ‘inadequate’ earlier this year, prompting the council to invest £5.5m into over 130 new social care posts.
A four-month review by the children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil has concluded that the responsibility for managing children’s services in Stoke-on-Trent will remain with the city council while a further review is carried out.
The review considered various options for the future delivery of services, including the possibility of sharing a director for children’s services with another local authority and delivering the services through a trust.
Gavin Williamson has given the council until 31 January 2020 to establish an agreed formal partnership arrangement with ‘a strong-performing’ local authority to provide support in delivering all of its children’s social care functions.
Mr Williamson’s direction states that the partnership must be agreed by him and that if it cannot be brokered, alternative arrangements for delivering the services will need to be sought.
Cllr Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and cabinet member for corporate resources, strategy and partnerships, said: ‘We are fully committed to doing all that we can to improve the quality of our response to vulnerable children.’
‘Clearly as the review shows, there is considerable work still to be done to get services to where they need to rightfully be,’ Cllr Brown continued.
‘We are also fully committed to working with the Department for Education and minister to identify the right partner authority that will allow us to make the progress we need to make for the benefit of all children in the city.
‘We know the challenge we are facing is significant, but we are determined to provide the best possible support we can for the children of Stoke-on-Trent and will do all that is needed to make this happen,’ she added.
Cllr Dave Evans, cabinet member for children and young people said: ‘The children’s commissioner recognised through the review that progress is beginning to be made on some issues but that the pace of change is too slow.
‘It is going to take time and a lot of hard work and commitment, but with the additional expert advice and support that is being provided by Government, we’re confident that improvements can be delivered across all aspects of children services.’