Northamptonshire County Council has announced plans to transfer its children’s services to an independent organisation.
The authority claims a trust would provide greater stability and cut costs, saving as much as £9 million a year. The current children’s services department has a high staff turnover and is reliant on agency social workers, which cost the authority no less than £22 million a year.
If the plans are carried through, Northamptonshire County Council would become the third local authority to outsource its children services. The new trust is expected to be in operation by September next year.
Council deputy leader Heather Smith said:
“One of the key benefits of a trust model is the flexibility it can give in relation to the workforce. We will be able to significantly improve the terms and conditions for our permanent staff in order to reduce our dependence on costly agency workers. As a result the trust model will also be more affordable and deliver a more stable workforce.”
But Kathy Evans of the representative organisation Children England expressed scepticism.
“It is not clear that changing to new management structures for any council’s children’s services will be enough to solve the grave problems seen in all councils, of rising need and demand for children’s services, alongside severe cuts to council budgets. New trusts and outsourcing really can’t be seen as any automatic or immediate solution for councils.”
Northamptonshire County Council’s children’s services department was deemed ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted inspectors in 2013.