Cllr S A W Reynolds
Key Decision identified as North Midlands Partnership in the Notice of Key Decisions published on 4 December 2019.
Councillor S A W Reynolds, Cabinet Member: Children, Young People and Education presented the report of the Assistant Director: Children’s Safeguarding & Strengthening Families which detailed the progress of the formation of an adoption agency partnership between Telford & Wrekin Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Shropshire Council and set out the proposed Financial Formula which set the basis for Telford & Wrekin Council’s contribution to the Adoption Agency.
The formation of the “Together4Children Adoption Agency” (formerly working titled North Midlands Regional Adoption & Permanency Partnership) combined the expertise of the four Local Authorities, and was based on a shared vision to create an arrangement which went beyond Adoption (as required in the Education and Adoption Act 2016) and included Fostering, Special Guardianship and Connected Persons, was a unique arrangement, creating a sustainable system which operated on a regional footprint, maximising resources, capacity and flexibility, leading to improvements in service delivery, effective practice and long-term outcomes for children, whilst maintaining the independence of each individual Local Authority.
In March 2019, Cabinet approved the formation of a Regional Permanency Arrangement (following the consideration of an Outline Business Case). To maximise the potential benefits of the new delivery model, and to manage the risks, Cabinet agreed to pursue a well organised and sequenced plan to achieve go live of Phase One (2018 – 2020), Phase Two (2020 – 2022) and Phase Three (2022 – 2024). The report detailed the partnership’s progress to date and set out the governance arrangements in place.
The four Local Authorities had made it clear that any future partnership arrangement could not lead to increased financial costs or pressures because of the development of this Partnership. The four Local Authorities are also clear that no Local Authorities will be disadvantaged financially because of the development of this arrangement.
It was, therefore, that the Regional Financial Formula for 2020/21 and 2021/22 was set on the basis that each Partner contributed 100% of “in scope” budgets (Adoption), as disaggregated from the 2019/20 budget and that there would be no further recourse to any Local Authority in the Partnership, in respect of services in scope of the Phase One Regional Adoption Agency (RAA). Partner Local Authorities would remain responsible for any additional cost pressures (through, for example, significant increases in predicted demand for services).
The Department of Education (DfE), stakeholders and other Local Authorities had identified regional finance and funding formulas as one of the most significant challenges facing Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) across the country. Within the design of the proposed financial model, the Partnership had identified the best practice from Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) that had already gone live. The available evidence supported the proposals as the best approach in terms of mitigating the potential for increased cost pressures and ensured financial certainty for the Partnership in the short term, whilst ensuring that the Local Authorities were insulated from potential financial risk as a result of the new arrangement. The proposed model allowed the Partnership to be able to adjust the Regional Financial Formula to take account of further functions coming into scope, as previously set out in the previous Cabinet Report and Regional Outline Business Case (OBC).
Members welcomed the approach set out by the report noting the benefits of a broader geography to finding the right forever family for children in care. .
RESOLVED – that
(a) the progress made in respect of the formation of the Together4Children Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) between Telford & Wrekin Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Shropshire Council be acknowledged;
(b) the Statutory Director of Children’s & Adults Services in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Education Cllr Shirley Reynolds be authorised to make further key decisions in relation to the formation of the Together4Children Regional Adoption Agency (RAA), including entering into the final interagency Permanency Partnership Agreement;
(c) the Together4Children Regional Adoption Agency (RAA), Regional Financial Formula for 2020/21 and 2021/22 set on the basis that each Partner contributes 100% of “in scope” budgets (Adoption Services), as disaggregated from the 2019/20 budget be approved; and
(d) continued commitment to the ambition of Telford & Wrekin Council, Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Shropshire Council to go beyond adoption and develop a regional model of wider permanence which includes Fostering, Connected Persons and Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) be made.