Hampshire agrees to take over provision of Isle of Wight’s children’s services
‘Groundbreaking’ strategic partnership agreed in outline
The outline terms for proposals that could lead to a groundbreaking strategic partnership between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to deliver Children's Services on the Island have been approved.
The decision by Hampshire County provides a formal basis for the proposals, which are designed to strengthen child protection and education services on the Island.
Substantial further work will be required before an agreement can be finalised and the councils say that they are engaged on a steady and considered approach to ensure all challenges, risks and solutions are identified, in what could be a significant opportunity for both local authorities.
Councillor Perry, Hampshire CC's Executive Member for Children's Services, said:
"It is a credit that Hampshire County Council with its reputation for strongly performing Children's Services should be approached by the Isle of Wight Council, with the support of the Department for Education, with a view to establishing such a partnership. It is an opportunity for us to offer assistance to our neighbour and an opportunity for us to develop an area of work as an extension of our capacity - the prospect of this type of partnership is something that's been under informal consideration nationally for some time in view of general financial and performance concerns.
"While it does represent a significant opportunity for both councils, uppermost in my mind is that I have a first and unequivocal responsibility to the children of Hampshire. I will be seeking full assurance that these proposals are subject to very careful assessment and that there can be no question of Hampshire's Children's Services budgets being utilised."
Broadly, the outline proposals for a strategic partnership, which would be unlikely to start before end of May 2013, would mean that Hampshire County Council's Director of Children's Services and Children's Services Departmental Management Team would take full operational responsibility for Isle of Wight Children's Services, including education and social care, as per the terms of Children Act 2004 as part of an improvement programme under the auspices of Government. The Isle of Wight Council would retain political authority and accountability. Line management and operational responsibility would rest entirely with Hampshire County Council. The Isle of Wight Council would remain financially accountable and fund all relevant costs of the arrangement.
Isle of Wight Council Leader Cllr David Pugh said:
"It is imperative that these arrangements to improve our child protection services are put in place swiftly and also that they are effective. We also look forward to the potential of working with our colleagues in Hampshire to drive forward continued improvement in our schools.
"We welcome this step forward and will continue our discussions with Hampshire to ensure the arrangement is the very best one for Island residents and, most importantly, the children and families who deserve the very best support."