Children’s social care services in Bradford are to be placed in a Trust in a bid to drive rapid improvements.
The not-for-profit trust will be owned by Bradford Council but operate at arms-length under the control of a new independent Chair and Board of Directors. The move follows recommendations made to the Education Secretary by the Children’s Services Commissioner in Bradford.
Bradford’s Commissioner, Steve Walker of Leeds City Council, was appointed to conduct a three-month review of children’s social care services in Bradford last September. The review of the council’s children’s services was carried out between September 2021 and January 2022.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: “Keeping vulnerable children safe from harm is non-negotiable. Where a council is not meeting its duty to do this, we will take action to protect children and put their needs first.
“It’s clear from the recommendations made by the Commissioner in Bradford that the council needs support to improve and so I’m pleased that Bradford council have agreed to establish a new trust that will bring positive change for the council and independent oversight that drives improvements,” he added.
Leaders at Bradford Council voluntarily agreed to the move in recognition of the challenges it has faced since its children’s services were rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2018.
The council-owned trust model has been used in several other local areas, including Sunderland, where services went from inadequate to outstanding in three years.
An independent non-executive commissioner will also be appointed to lead the council through this transition period, while the new trust is established.
The Bradford Partnership commissioned an independent Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review in December to establish whether anything could have been done differently following the tragic death of Star Hobson.
Star was just 16 months old when she was taken to hospital on 22 September 2020 after suffering a cardiac arrest and sadly died the same day. Her mother Frankie Smith has been found guilty for causing or allowing the death of a child while Frankie’s partner Savannah Brockhill has been found guilty of murdering Star following a trial at Bradford Crown Court.
The government has also announced independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will now consolidate the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review for Star Hobson into its national review of the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes to identify local and national improvements needed by safeguarding agencies. This decision is supported by the Bradford safeguarding partnership and the Panel’s Review is still due to be published in May 2022.
Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “Nothing is more important to us than the protection of children in our District. All children deserve to have a happy childhood and full opportunity to flourish.
“We have worked hard, through the pandemic, to improve children’s services and government Commissioner Steve Walker has recognised this. Our commitment is evident in the significant investment in services and wider intensive support from across the council but we know the pace of improvement needs to quicken.
“In response to the Commissioner’s report to the Secretary of State, we are creating a council-owned children’s company. We are working positively and constructively with government in the best interests of our children. This gives our valued social care staff certainty over the future direction of the service and the opportunity to draw on resources and expertise nationally. It will bring greater investment and support so that children and young people in the district feel the impact of this work sooner.
“Inevitably this will take time and we’re acutely conscious that there can be no pause in our improvement journey. We’ve asked government to collaborate with us to create a commissioner-led improvement board. This will enable us to focus on delivering consistently high-quality care to the children of our district.
“Our frontline staff are key to this – we recognise the hard work social care staff do every day, entering homes in some of the most challenging circumstances in our society, and we are committed to supporting them,” she concluded.
Nadhim Zahawi concluded: “This is an important moment for children and families in Bradford, and for social workers and other professionals who want to create meaningful and effective relationships with them. These professionals take highly complex decisions each day to protect children, and I am grateful for the effort that goes into each one.”