Plans to transfer West Sussex County Council’s children’s services to an independent trust have been put on hold by the government.
The Department for Education yesterday (10 December) issued a new statutory direction stating the service should remain with the council for at least a year with the move to a children’s trust ‘paused’.
In a letter, children’s minister Vicky Ford said she was ‘encouraged that there is now a new political leadership in respect of children’s services’ and a new director of children’s services.
‘This has undoubtedly been strengthened by the wider work the council is undertaking to reform the corporate council, with the support of its corporate improvement partner, East Sussex County Council,’ wrote the minister.
‘The strength of this partnership will evidently be important in creating the conditions in which children’s services can continue to improve.’
West Sussex County Council received a statutory direction to place its children’s services into a separate trust following an inadequate Ofsted report in 2019 and a subsequent report by a children’s commissioner appointed by the DfE to look at the council’s work.
The minister added that while she was confident ‘the building blocks were in place for improvements’ she was clear that there was still much more to do.
‘It is clear that there is still much work to do to address the weaknesses identified in 2019, and bring the standard of service up to the quality that children and families in West Sussex deserve,’ she said.
Responding to the news, West Sussex County Council leader, Cllr Paul Marshall, said it was a ‘significant step’ for the local authority. ‘But, as the minister has made clear, we still have a long way to go, and a huge amount of work to do. We are not complacent and improving the services that our children rely on remains my absolute priority,’ he added.
‘Our children’s services support some of the most vulnerable people in our community and they should be, and are, front and centre of all that we do.’
Photo Credit – No-longer-here (Pixabay)