The ownership of the first independent children’s trust to be established is set to transfer back into council ownership in part to avoid the need for a procurement exercise.
Doncaster Children’s Services Trust was created in 2014 under government direction after a review recommended services should be taken out of Doncaster MBC’s control.
Under the plan, supported by children’s minister Nadhim Zahawi and agreed by the trust and Doncaster’s cabinet earlier this month, the trust will change from a company owned by its directors to an arm’s length body wholly owned by the council on 1 April.
The trust’s chief executive Paul Moffat said one of the main reasons for converting to an Almo was “technical” as it would mean the council will not have to conduct a procurement exercise, as would be required under the trust’s current ownership, once the government removes its direction.
He added: “Establishing an Almo means the trust can continue to be awarded contracts and deliver services on behalf of the council, something both parties were keen to ensure, resulting in being able to plan for the long term.
“The contract from 1 April is up to nine years, longer than our current contract.”
A report to Doncaster’s cabinet earlier this month said the proposed revised management structure will create “a smaller more focused board” with recruitment designed “to add particular areas of [unspecified] challenge to the governance.
It said the trust was “a significant budgetary pressure to the council” and required an extra £6.7m in 2019-20, up from a total budget of £53.3m, due to increased demand and complexity of cases.
The number of children in care reached an all time high of 593 in September 2018 but the report said “significant measures” were taken to reduce the number to 559 in December.
LGC understands DfE will assess the progress of the new arrangement later in the year and, if deemed appropriate, will end its intervention in children’s services in Doncaster.
The trust was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in January last year after being rated inadequate at the previous inspection in 2015.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are pleased that Doncaster children’s services are now rated ‘good’ by Ofsted following a period of intervention.
“The new delivery model was chosen by them, and we will continue to support the local council and trust in the transition period.”