Children’s services that persistently fail young people will be taken out of councils’ hands and given to other high-performing local authorities, children’s charities or “teams of experts”, under plans unveiled by the government.
The proposals, which David Cameron will set out on Monday, will establish a new inspection regime and structures to deal with struggling services.
The education secretary, Nicky Morgan, has told local authorities that improving children’s services is not just about money, but about finding a different way of doing things.
Morgan urged local authorities to “make sure that they are scrutinising every line on the budget”, adding that you can’t improve services by doing “the same old same old, it’s about looking at different ways of delivering services.”
“It’s not just about money,” Morgan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “Local authorities have protected children’s services and we do put money in when a trust is being set up, but it’s also about – obviously the quality of the workforce – but also about the quality of the leadership.”
High-performing local authorities, charities and “experts” will be brought in to turn children’s services around – often by acting as sponsors, forming “trusts” to take over from authorities that are judged to be failing.
Cameron said it was part of the Tories’ drive to “confront state failure” and that details of who would be eligible to take over children’s services were still to be finalised.
Some charities have expressed concern that such a crucial area of care must not be hived off to organisations without the sufficient levels of expertise.
In a statement, Cameron said the changes would be as transformative as the government’s controversial education changes in the last parliament. He said: “It shows how serious we are about confronting state failure and tackling some the biggest social problems in our country. Together we will make sure that not a single child is left behind.
“It is our duty to put this right; to say to poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over. We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.”
The broad principle of the changes was announced in September and follow a series of child abuse scandals across the country. But the details are being set out for the first time on Monday.
The measures include:
A spokesperson for the children’s charity Barnardo’s said it welcomed the announcement, but warned the government that it had to ensure that any group wanting to take over children’s services had the relevant expertise to ensure vulnerable children got the best service possible.
The charity’s chief executive, Javed Khan, said: “We need to ensure we have the best possible services across the UK to support children and families, especially those who are most vulnerable. There must be options, where it is best for the child, to use the expertise of the voluntary sector to complement those already in place.”
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