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Case study: Department of Education - Sandwell Children's Social Care

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

Client: Department for Education – Due diligence in support of the development of Sandwell CSC Trust

Date: October 2016 – April 2018

Challenges faced by the client: Following an Ofsted “inadequate” rating of Sandwell MBC’s Children’s Social Care Services and a recommendation by the appointed Children’s Services Commissioner in July 2016, the Secretary of State for Education decided that the most effective and appropriate way of ensuring services are delivered to the expected service standard would be through the establishment of a ‘trust’ to deliver the Council’s children’s social care functions.

The Council set up a comprehensive project and associated mechanisms and resources to ensure the successful development and delivery of the Trust. The Trust was to be a new, not-for- profit, operationally-independent organisation established by the Council as a company limited by guarantee for the purposes of delivering children’s social care services in Sandwell. The Trust would be wholly owned by the Council and is a “Teckal” compliant company.

As an independent organisation, the Trust would have responsibility for the day to day delivery of children’s social care services with control over the use of its finances, the operational delivery of its services, and its strategic planning. A Trust Board would govern the strategic direction of the Trust.

Support offered: Mutual Ventures, as specialist and experienced advisers on Trust development were commissioned by DfE to provide oversight, technical and operational assurance and due diligence expertise throughout the set up of the Trust. Our support included:

  • Participating fully as a key partner in the project, advising at key project meetings, working closely with the DfE, the DfE’s appointed commissioner for children’s services, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, and other partners such those that provide legal services.

  • Due diligence of existing systems, business process, assets, and third party contracts required by the Trust.

  • Due diligence and audit of current budgets and development of cost model for determining resources for the Trust for the initial and subsequent years.

  • Due diligence of support systems (including admin, HR, ITC, telephony, MIS, estates, etc.) required and sourcing options (including whether it may be feasible to access existing infrastructure of the Council).

  • Supporting and coordinating all key aspects of the services contract have been successfully negotiated.

  • Working alongside the Council to develop Service Level Agreements, with a recommendation to Commissioner/Board of the Trust on the suitability of those SLAs, working with the Council to determine the buy-back budget for each service subject to an SLA.

  • Advising on the development of an exit strategy.

  • Supporting the design, costings and review of the Trust Headquarters function. This included infrastructure requirements, senior management structure, corporate governance the Trust, including comparison with other Trusts.

  • Review of principles and processes for cashflow and Treasury Management to ensure they support the operational independence of the Trust.

Outcome achieved: The transition of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council’s Children’s Social Care Services into Sandwell Children’s Trust was very successful. The Trust went live in April 2018 with a newly refurbished building, staff successfully transferred, the contract signed days in advance of go-live and strong relationships existing between the Trust Board and SMBC leadership.

The creation of the Trust marked a fresh start for Sandwell’s Children’s Social Care services. Building on recent improvement, the Trust put in place the necessary improvements in children’s social care to reverse the fragility and weakness still apparent within service delivery. The Trust represents a sustainable model of delivery and improvement designed to bring good and outstanding services to the Borough – innovating where possible and using the freedoms of the Trust approach to develop a new and sharper focus to the difficult issues the community faces.


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