Deal done as progress is made to improve Sunderland's children's services

The creation of a new trust has moved a step closer as efforts continue to turn around the care of youngsters across Sunderland.

Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 10:40 am
Updated Thursday, 17th November 2016, 2:18 pm
Nick Whitfield, commissioner of children services, Sunderland City Council, and Irene Lucas CBE, council chief executive, signia Children Services Memorandom of Understanding alongside Councillor Louise Farthing and Paul Watson, council leader.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Sunderland City Council and Nick Whitfield, the Government’s commissioner for children’s services across Wearside, paves the way for Together for Children to become a company in its own right.

The agreement is designed to support working arrangements between the council and the Department for Education (DfE) ahead of Together for Children becoming a company in its own right next April.

It has been set up as part of a drive under David Cameron, who announced during his time as Prime Minister that the department would be set up as a trust as work is carried out to improve the service.

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The service, along with the safeguarding section, was deemed to be inadequate when Ofsted inspectors carried out checks in July 2015.

Since then, it has been told it is improving, with an action plan dawn up to recruit new workers and tighten up procedures, with both leaders and the inspectors recognising there is still work to do.

Councillor Paul Watson, council leader, said: “This is a significant step forward in the transformation of children’s services and safeguarding in Sunderland.

“It’s recognition of the need for a fundamental change in the way services for children are delivered to ensure the best possible future for children and young people in the city. And it builds on the considerable progress we have made already in improving services since July 2015, including £16m of further investment to strengthen management and support and take on additional frontline staff.”

“The new organisation will create fully integrated children’s services covering education and children’s social care.
“We believe this is the best way of helping to deliver excellent services for children and young people to help them live safe, happy, healthy and successful lives.”

The council has been working closely with Mr Whitfield since the July 2015 Ofsted report to look at how it can do things differently to ensure the best possible services for children and families.

He said: “The council has been very co-operative in recognising the need to do something different from the start which is something it deserves credit for and I’d particularly like to thank Councillor Watson for the way that he has worked with me to ensure better outcomes for children.

“We’ve seen significant progress over the last 16 months and the new company provides a real opportunity to deliver innovative children’s services that can ensure further improvement and sustained delivery.”

Councillor Louise Farthing, cabinet member for children’s services, added: “Improving children’s services is a key priority for the city council and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a significant milestone on the road to ensuring that children, families and young people get the services they deserve.”