Department for Education
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New freedoms to help local areas support vulnerable children

Local authorities will be given new freedoms to encourage innovation and achieve better outcomes for vulnerable children. 

Under new regulations, local authorities will be able to delegate social care functions to mutuals, community interest companies and other not-for-profit organisations to deliver children’s social care. The details are outlined in the government’s response to the consultation on powers to delegate social care functions published last week.

Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said:

We want to offer local authorities the freedom to deliver services differently in order to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable children - to make the adequate good and the good outstanding.

If we are going to achieve the very best for our most vulnerable children, we must harness the expertise, passion and drive of all those who want to serve children’s needs.

The consultation looked at how local authorities can bring in external expertise to broaden their options for delivery, in turn delivering better social work practice and ultimately better outcomes for children. At the moment this kind of innovation is only possible in failing local authorities.

The new regulations, to be introduced in autumn 2014, are a response to local authorities who have been pressing for the freedom to try new approaches to improve services for vulnerable children. For example, they will allow social workers to establish specialist social work practices, such as focusing on FGM (female genital mutilation) or teenage sexual exploitation, which could operate across local authority boundaries and offer consultancy services nationally.

Only bodies working on a not-for-profit basis will be able to take on the functions. They will help increase the capacity in the system and the diversity and quality of services available.

In addition, any surplus may be invested back into areas such as the delivery of social care and early help for vulnerable children, not to private shareholders.

The accountability of local authorities and role of Ofsted will remain unchanged. Ofsted will continue to inspect all children’s services and issue judgements on the local authority’s performance in meeting its duties.

Chief Social Worker for Children Isabelle Trowler said:

As a profession we have talked for years about the need to be more in control of our professional practice. These new freedoms to encourage innovation give us a great opportunity to do just that in partnership with local government.

We now need to be fully engaged in this reform agenda and respond positively to these freedoms by helping local authorities redesign services in ways that respond to the voices of children and families who use them.

This work is part of a wider programme to foster new ways of working in children’s services. The government’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme makes an offer of professional advice, practical help, and financial support to local authorities and others with exciting ideas for improvement.


  1. See the full consultation response.
  2. The Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme seeks to support the development, testing and spreading of more effective ways of supporting children who need help from children’s social care services. The programme is looking to provide financial and non-financial support to organisations that have promising ideas for how to do things differently. We have £30 million this year and a substantially increased amount next year, if there are ideas to merit it. The programme has 2 focus areas - rethinking children’s social work and rethinking support for adolescents in or on the edge of care.
  3. Next steps:
  • government will lay the draft regulations in Parliament next week
  • they will be considered in both the Commons and the Lords
  • we hope to have approval in the early autumn so that local authorities can make use of the new freedoms from October onwards


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