£2m cost of external help for Doncaster Children’s Services

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Doncaster Council is set to shell out nearly £2 million to bring in an outside company to help improve its children’s services which have been beset by scandals.

The cash, that will come from the council’s budget, will be used to cover the cost of the contract for an external Improvement Partner iMPOWER for the next two years.

The name of the company was announced at a cabinet meeting today.

According to iMPOWER’s website it specialises in “delivering cost-effective, sustainable change to improve children’s futures”.

Jo Miller, Chief executive of Doncaster Council, denied the move was privatisation of the children’s services department at today’s cabinet meeting.

The contract will run for two years initially and will cost £1.8 million.

There will then be an option to extend the deal for another two years for an additional cost.

Fines will be imposed on iMPOWER if it fails to meet performance targets.

A report published ahead of the meeting confirmed that Eleanor Brazil, who was brought into Haringey to improve services after the Baby P scandal, is set to be named director of children’s services.

Chief Executive, Jo Miller, said: “We recognise the challenges that all councils face with their Children’s Services and we are set to lead the way in how these services can be delivered in the future. We plan to do something differently which will reform the service. We also intend to help establish a culture of learning across local authorities by sharing new best practice. This new approach will benefit our staff and protect and enrich the lives of our young people.”

Martin Cresswell, Chief Executive of iMPOWER, added: “We are delighted to have been selected by Doncaster Council to be their Children’s services transformation partner. We are committed to working with staff, Councillors, and partners to deliver lasting improvement for the children and families of Doncaster, and will base a dedicated team of skilled professionals in Doncaster to embed change and facilitate learning across local government.”

A spokesman for Doncaster Council said: “Doncaster Council has identified £1.8 million for the two year life of the improvement partner. This money has come from savings across the authority.”

Problems first came to light in 2009 when an inquiry was launched into children’s services at the council.

A government investigation was ordered after serious case reviews were ordered into the deaths of seven children in the area following reports of neglect and abuse.

Last year education and children’s watchdog Ofsted revealed shocking details of “inadequate services” which said that vulnerable children in the borough had experienced or were put at risk of “significant harm.”