Released: 10 December, 2020
The Department for Education announced today that it is ‘pausing’ the statutory direction to move West Sussex County Council’s Children’s Services to a Trust for at least another year.
West Sussex County Council received a statutory direction to place its services for Children and Families into a separate Children’s Trust following an inadequate Ofsted report in 2019 and a subsequent report by a children’s commissioner appointed by the DfE to look at the Council’s work.
The new statutory direction is published alongside a report by the Children’s Commissioner appointed to track progress by the Council, which said there were ‘compelling reasons why a company to deliver children’s services functions on behalf of the Council is no longer required’ and instead the Council should retain control of its children’s services for a period of twelve months pending a review of improvement progress.
Hampshire County Council’s Chief Executive John Coughlan is the Children’s Commissioner appointed to compile the initial report and, as a result of the direction, was retained as Commissioner.
Hampshire County Council was appointed Partner in Practice to support the Council in its improvement journey.
In addition, East Sussex County Council was appointed, under a unique new arrangement, as a local improvement partner, and its Chief Executive, Becky Shaw, took up a joint role as Chief Executive of both East and West Sussex County Councils.
On today’s announcement on the new statutory direction Paul Marshall, Leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “This is a significant step for our organisation and, most importantly, the people of West Sussex. I want to thank both Hampshire County Council and East Sussex County Council for their support in our improvement journey. This is a long road, and this is an important step, but we are not complacent, and we so value the support of our neighbours as we continue to drive up standards and strive to improve services for our residents.
"I also want to take this opportunity to thank John Coughlan personally for his expertise and to Cllr Keith Glazier, Leader of East Sussex and Becky Shaw, our Chief Executive, and her team, for their sterling work and support as we continue to improve our organisation."
Keith Glazier, Leader of East Sussex County Council, said: “I am delighted to see such great progress at West Sussex and to be part of that improvement journey has been a privilege. West Sussex County Council is a true partner for us and I look forward to our continued close working in the future.”
Councillor Keith Mans, Leader of Hampshire County Council, said: “Hampshire County Council is pleased and proud to assist our neighbours in West Sussex in their vital work to improve children’s services. As our record in Hampshire shows, we are passionate about children’s services and also believe deeply in sector led improvement between councils. This is one such, very positive example, including our colleagues in East Sussex also. It is great to see this work bearing fruit, on behalf of West Sussex and especially on behalf of their vulnerable children. We all know there is much work still to be done. I believe the Minister has shown great foresight in accepting the recommendation of our sector specialists that a children’s trust may no longer be required. That will be particularly good news to the leaders in West Sussex. Hampshire County Council remains deeply committed to our part in supporting this excellent partnership for children and seeing it through to what I am sure will be a successful conclusion.”
Children’s Commissioner, and the Chief Executive of Hampshire County Council, John Coughlan said: “I think it is a great credit to all involved in West Sussex County Council, and their partners, that such progress has been made to cause the Minister to agree this pause. It is a significant statement of confidence which all should be proud of – but it is only one milestone on our shared journey to finish the job of improvement. That is where our collective focus can now lie.”