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Formal partner for children’s services confirmed at Stoke-on-Trent City Council

Published: Friday, 13th March 2020

A formal partner for Stoke-on-Trent City Council children’s services has today (Friday) been confirmed.

Leeds City Council has been appointed as the authority’s official Improvement Advisor for an initial period of 12 months, to work with the council to support delivery of its children’s social care services function.

The Secretary of State for Education has authorised the partnership in a Statutory Direction to the Council issued today. It follows a recommendation to seek a long-term local authority partner by Children’s Commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who is working on behalf of the Secretary of State to oversee the city council’s improvements after its children’s services were judged inadequate by Ofsted in 2019.

This means that with immediate effect, the city council will now benefit from an intensive package of support delivered directly by Leeds City Council. Leeds City Council’s children’s services have been judged outstanding by Ofsted. They will help the council to drive through necessary improvements over an initial one-year period by working with the council to support delivery of its children social care services functions, providing expertise, additional capacity, leadership, insight and challenge.

Councillor Abi Brown, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “Improving children’s services is our number one priority. We are fully committed to doing all that we can to improve the quality of our response for vulnerable children and this formal partnership with Leeds City Council is obviously welcome news. The size and scale of the challenge we face is significant and these arrangements provide us with additional capacity and expertise and give us the opportunity to learn from an outstanding authority.

“We have spent the last few months focusing on achieving some of the basic principles we need to improve our children’s services, both through how we deliver the service but also the oversight of it.

“This has included improving awareness amongst councillors of what the service does and also seeing how we can make the improvements we need to take account of best practice from other authorities such as Leeds.”

Councillor Dave Evans, cabinet member for children and young people, said: “Progress is being made but we want to make improvements as quickly as we can. The news that Leeds City Council is our formal partner will allow us to hopefully accelerate the work we’re doing and to learn from the best.

“We’ve already benefitted from expertise provided by Stockport and Essex councils on a shorter term basis which has been hugely helpful to our staff and our ways of working. With this additional expertise, it will be a significant step forward in delivering improvements across all aspects of children’s services providing the best outcomes for children in the city.”

Children’s Commissioner Eleanor Brazil said: “Improvement required at this scale can take between two and three years. Securing an experienced and outstanding local authority improvement partner is a significant milestone in driving forward much- needed change and will only benefit the most vulnerable children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent.

Councillor Fiona Venner, executive member for children and families at Leeds City Council said: “Leeds City Council is committed to sector-led improvement. We are pleased to be able to support work with Stoke-on-Trent City Council through an improvement partnership to help them to deliver improved outcomes for children and young people in the city and to share our learning and experience.”

For all media enquiries please contact the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671. (journalist only)