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Birmingham set to pursue community interest company for children's services

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet is due next week to decide whether to put its children’s services into a community interest company.

Cabinet member for children, families and schools Brigid Jones said: “On balance a wholly-owned company is the best model for our [children’s services] trust as it provides more flexibility and a low risk; there will be far less potential for disruption to our on-going improvement than with other options.

“It is also recommended that it is created as a community interest company, which is really important as it makes clear the trust exists to deliver real and tangible benefits to the community it serves, and not for private gain.”

The trust would have operational independence from the council, and if approved would start as a shadow body in April.

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A cabinet report noted Birmingham had been rated as inadequate in children’s services “for some years” and remained so in an Ofsted inspection last autumn leaving the council under intervention measures until at least 2019.

It said the trust would offer a single focus on children’s social work, greater focus on service delivery and “a clean break with the past”.

A trust would also enable the council to “hold the ring for children with credibility [with] a single locus with partners about shared responsibility for children and families with highest needs”.

Birmingham considered creating an employee owned mutual for the service but said the company route scored higher in an options appraisal and that a mutual carried some significant risks including becoming “potentially too independent”.

The report said: “The case for making the [company] a community interest company is that it counters some of the issues around accountability, control and operational independence.

“It establishes a clear intent from the very outset about the purpose of the trust and establishes an asset lock…so that its assets can only be used for the good of the community.”

Mark Smulian

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