The chief executive of the first independent children’s trust to be established has said the model enabled widespread changes to be made quickly, after jumped by two Ofsted ratings since the last inspection.
Doncaster Children’s Trust was set up in 2014 under government direction due to long-term failings in the town’s children’s social care services.
An Ofsted inspection in 2015 identified some improvement, but found services protecting children remained ‘inadequate’.
In a rare case of services improving by more than one rating, a report published last week rated the trust good’ in all categories.
Chief executive Paul Moffat told LGC the support of Doncaster MBC and other agencies was key to driving improvement. But highlighting an implementation evaluation by the Department for Education, published in July last year, he added: “According to the evidence I have been provided with… clearly by this model being implemented has contributed to the significant pace of change.”
The latest inspection report said improvement was “the result of the robust and determined leadership, management and governance”, adding “the voice of the children is powerful in Doncaster”.
The trust’s director of performance, quality and innovation Jackie Wilson told LGC the trust model provided the “benefit to a new fresh start” that “galvanised the workforce and partners”.
She added: “Due to a different approach in terms of governance and decision making, our staff say to us we are more agile as an organisation.
“If we say we are going to do something we do it because we are focused on children’s social work and family support, as opposed to a much larger organisation where there are other demands.”
Mr Moffat admitted that, as in other areas, high demand on children’s social care was increasing “year on year”, with challenges in agreeing levels of investment required with partners, which are also under pressure.
He added: “Costing out how much it costs is very difficult because you are not comparing apples with apples – the systems are very different.
“What we have got to bear in mind is when the trust was established there were a number of quite expensive legacy issues that we are still working through.
“Poor services over a long period of time means some children and young people are still requiring additional support.”
Mr Moffat said the trust is currently considering how services can be shared to improve system-wide performance and create efficiencies.
He added: “We want to move to a family safeguarding model, looking at the possibility of integrating services with our health, council and police colleagues.”
The government had, up to last year, paid £6.5m to cover the VAT liabilities of children’s trusts in Doncaster and Slough since they were established, creating uncertainty over the sustainability of the model.
Mr Moffat said discussions are ongoing with Doncaster MBC and the government over the issue.
He added: “We have got a paper working its way through the system now. We are optimistic that we may have found a way forward, although we still have some way to go before that is in place.”