As the first cabinet report about moving the city council’s children’s services towards a trust is published, setting out the case for change and exploring a range of options, Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children, families and schools, sets out the case for change.
We are at the start of the third year of our improvement journey. Strong foundations have been laid, and as we work on year three, it’s time to start looking ahead, to how we sustain improvement in the years to come.
Our goal is for every child to have a fantastic childhood – but we must remember it is the outcomes that are important, rather than being wedded to a particular way for these outcomes to be achieved. This is why we announced a few weeks ago that we are exploring a trust model, as a way of stepping up to the next level and ensuring sustainable improvement.
But this is a huge decision: if we do this it must be because it is the right thing to do. There must be a clear case for change before that change happens. Other local authorities, including some rated as ‘good’, are also exploring placing children’s services into a trust, and some examples are included in this report.
So what is our purpose? As the report says, it is ensuring Birmingham’s children and young people are protected from significant harm and their development and wellbeing are promoted. But historically, there have been endemic system issues that have held us back from achieving that goal in our present form.
A trust model, predominantly about children’s social work, can represent children with a strong clear voice to the council, partners and to the city. It can mobilise joint commissioning and support better joined-up thinking and partnering. Above all, it can be designed in a way that supports a single and unwavering focus on providing the best services to children and families.
This report sets out some of the barriers that are in our way as things are, and a list of options for change. We have to get this right, and each of these will be examined in detail, but always with this at the forefront of our mind – will this allow us to do great social work, providing great outcomes for children?
So where do we go from here? If cabinet gives the go-ahead to explore these options we will fully appraise alternative models and come back with more detailed proposals. We will of course be comparing each to the status quo, to test if they will truly make a difference. We have held meetings with staff and partners and want to hear their views as they are integral to making this work.
There is much further work to be done to understand the exact scope of any trust model but if cabinet approves a case for change we can continue to explore the options available. The aim ultimately is to create the best conditions that allow the best social workers to stay here in Birmingham, doing the best social work with children and their families.