To ask Her Majesty's Government whether any assessment has been made of the effectiveness of the operating models of social care trusts in relation to improving local children’s services.
A small proportion of local councils have arrangements whereby some or the entirety of their service is run at arms’ length from the council, through a children’s services trust, including some that are in intervention. In two of these councils, Doncaster and Slough, the department established an independent trust after children’s social care services were found to be systemically and persistently inadequate.
An evaluation of Doncaster Children’s Services Trust shows it was viewed favourably by its staff and has had a positive affect on culture and practice: the investment in staff, quality assurance and the way that the Trust communicates its work has led to a shift in culture. This has led to improved staff morale, workforce stability and some practice improvements. For example, the use of agency workers and staff turnover has reduced; and staff reported spending more time with children and families. However, it is too early to determine whether these changes will result in sustained improvements for children and families. An evaluation of Slough Children’s Services Trust is in progress.
Other alternative operating models are being tested by councils who are not in intervention. For example, ‘Achieving for Children’ (AfC) is a social enterprise company, set up and jointly owned by two councils, Richmond-upon-Thames and Kingston-upon-Thames. It has recently been funded by the Department for Education to expand to three more councils, the first of which is Windsor and Maidenhead, who joined in August 2017. A Department for Education review, published in 2016, into the establishment of AfC suggested that the main benefits of its creation were: better service quality; better staff engagement; higher levels of innovation; better recruitment and retention; and savings from the combining of services across the two local councils and the development of alternative revenue streams.
The department is keen to broaden the developing evidence base on the potential of alternative delivery models to bring better outcomes for local councils. We are funding four projects to explore this through its ‘Innovation Programme’, and will be evaluating their efficacy.