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Slough Children's Services Trust has made 'journey of improvement', says Government report

A ‘journey of improvement’ has been described in a Government report on the Slough Children’s Services Trust, despite starting from a low base and an ‘early hostile climate and fractured relationship’ with Slough Borough Council (SBC).

The Department for Education (DfE) published its implementation evaluation report this month, using findings from researchers Kantar Public.

The trust took over the borough’s children’s services in October 2015 following a government direction in October 2014, after the council was rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2011 and then again in 2013.

This month’s report praises the trust for establishing a ‘clear vision’ for the town’s children’s services.

It acknowledges the barriers faced by the trust when it first took the reins, making references to ‘an early hostile climate and fractured relationship between the trust and SBC’.

“This initially undermined the trust’s progress and smooth transition from SBC,” the Government report adds.

Problems between the two parties included communication difficulties, disagreements over who was ultimately accountable for the trust and a lack of clarity over who should attend certain meetings and have access to certain data.

“However, work on both sides has seen this relationship mature, with the two organisations now sharing a focus on outcomes for children in Slough,” the report adds.

The assessment says the trust has improved its efficiency, workforce, quality assurance and performance monitoring, strengthened the organisation of its services and has created a more open and inclusive culture.

The trust is also praised for improving the safety ‘of the front door’ – meaning it makes better safeguarding assessments for children first coming into contact with the service.

“Since 2015, the Trust has been on a journey of improvement to move service quality forward from a low base,” the report adds.

“The scope and scale of work needed was substantial, and while significant progress has been made, more work remains to be done.”

Suggested improvements included enhancing mechanisms allowing children to share their views and improving case handovers.

The trust’s interim chief executive Andrew Bunyan said: “This evaluation provided us with an ideal opportunity to really benchmark our services over time.

“We are delighted by the improvement it has shown to the services we offer and the way our staff and culture have developed over that time.

“We’re under no illusions that there isn’t more work to be done.

“But we are confident our trajectory of improvement will continue and we look forward to becoming recognised as a model for change and as an example of how to successfully transform services.”

SBC cabinet member for children and education Cllr Shabnum Sadiq (Lab, Wexham Lea) said: “The Council welcomes the findings of the report. The partnership between the Council and the trust has moved on significantly and positively since the early days and services have consequently improved.

“We will continue to work closely together to secure the best outcomes for Slough children.”

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