Next steps for new trust to run West Sussex children’s services

The next steps for a new independent trust to run children’s services in West Sussex are set to be agreed next week.

Monday, 12th October 2020, 5:01 pm
County Hall, Chichester

West Sussex County Council was graded ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted in May 2019, and later that year an independent commissioner overseeing improvements on behalf of the Department for Education felt not enough progress had been made.

He recommended that direct control of children’s services should be taken off the county council and an independent trust set up to run them instead.

Proposals for how this will be achieved are due to be discussed by cabinet members next Tuesday (October 20).

Initial preparations have already been made and this involved hiring a specialist external consultancy and lawyers.

Jacquie Russell, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Putting our children first is a top priority for the county council so it is imperative that we have the right structure in place that enables us to provide the best services for our children, young people and families.

“This report sets out the detail we need to consider as we move towards establishing a children’s trust.”

The trust would be a wholly owned subsidiary of the county council, but would be a separate legal entity and operate independently.

It would be governed by a trust board compromising executive and non-executive directors, with the board chair a DfE appointment.

The trust’s chief executive would be its executive lead and the proposal is for WSCC’s executive director for children’s services to be appointed to this position.

However the county council would still retain statutory accountability for the delivery of children’s services in West Sussex and would hold the trust to account through a service level agreement and performance framework.

The council’s cabinet and lead member would retain leadership for that accountability and the council’s scrutiny function would continue to support that democratic accountability.

The entire staff of the services specified would transfer to the children’s trust under TUPE and become employees of the trust.

According to a report by council officers: “The Children First improvement agenda would continue unabated and the plans now being finalised for a comprehensive service review would continue to be delivered whether or not the trust were to take effect. It is hoped that a service rebranded as a children’s trust would promote the recruitment of further high-quality social work staff.”

The current timescale would see the trust become operational from October 2021.