Department for Education
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More freedom and flexibility - a new approach for Children’s Trust Boards, children and young people’s plans, and the ‘duty to cooperate’

All evidence and experience suggests stronger partnerships, greater integration of services and a shared purpose for all those working with and for children and families lead to better services for children, young people and families – especially the most vulnerable. The core principle of a shared commitment to improve the lives of children, young people and families – enshrined in the ‘duty to cooperate’ on local strategic bodies – remains as important as it ever was.

But the current system needs urgent reform. The Coalition Government is determined to let local professionals come together in the way that best fits local circumstances and needs. We need to reduce the level of central prescription, which hampers creativity and stifles innovation. That is why we are removing bureaucratic burdens in the form of unnecessary legislation and the needless obligations imposed on local authorities and their partners.

Coupled with this is a programme of reform to devolve power and information to local areas, from councillors to community groups to individual citizens – the people who together know what works best for their neighbours and their neighbourhood.

This is a radical shift of responsibility and accountability away from the centre, reversing the trend towards increasing bureaucratic government and restoring democratic government.

What will change, why, and when

As of 31 October 2010:

  • Statutory children’s trust guidance, which no longer reflects Government policy, is withdrawn.
  • Children and young people’s plan regulations, which are unnecessarily prescriptive, are revoked. This means Children’s Trust Boards will not be required to produce a children and young people’s plan.

Forthcoming Education Bill:

  • The Education Bill will (subject to parliamentary approval) remove the duty on schools, non-maintained special schools, academies and FE colleges to cooperate through children’s trusts.

Next parliamentary session:

  • To provide even greater freedom and more local flexibility, the Coalition Government intends (subject to parliamentary approval) to remove the requirement for local areas to have a Children’s Trust Board and for Job Centre Plus to be a ‘relevant partner’ under a formal ‘duty to cooperate’.

In summary

Children’s Trust Boards

We are neither prescribing nor proscribing the need for a Board. In many areas such Boards are working well, but equally, other partnership arrangements can be as effective in securing the wellbeing of local children and young people. We can’t remove the legal obligation to have a Board immediately, but we can remove burdensome statutory guidance and revoke unnecessary regulations so there is no longer a requirement for the Board to develop, publish or review the children and young people’s plan.

Children and young people’s plan (CYPP)

Many Boards have already started consulting local people and assessing local needs to meet the requirement to publish a new plan by 1 April 2011. This requirement will now be removed and local authorities and their partners can decide how best to provide for the needs of their area, getting the most from limited resources. Local partnerships are free to publish their own strategic plan as they see fit, but the format and what it contains will no longer be centrally prescribed. Relevant partners will not be under any formal duty to ‘have regard’ to any voluntary plan.

Duty to cooperate

Partnership working gets results. We have no plans to remove this sensible principle, enshrined in the ‘duty to cooperate’ (section 10 of the Children Act 2004) from legislation. Local authorities should continue to lead partnership arrangements that make sense for local people and services.

‘Relevant partners’ continue to be

  • district councils
  • strategic health authorities
  • primary care trusts
  • youth offending teams
  • police
  • probation services
  • persons providing Connexions services in pursuance of section 68 of the Education and Skills Act 2008
  • Jobcentre Plus.

The forthcoming Education Bill will, subject to the will of Parliament, remove the ‘duty to cooperate’ from

  • maintained schools
  • FE and sixth-form colleges
  • non-maintained special schools
  • academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of arts.

These bodies will no longer have to be represented on Children’s Trust Boards, and schools and colleges will be free to form partnership arrangements in the way that best meets local circumstances. The Government has also indicated its intention to, at the next legislative opportunity and subject to the will of Parliament, remove Jobcentre Plus from the list of relevant partners.

Lead member and director of children’s services

We have no plans to repeal the legislation requiring local authorities to appoint lead members and directors of children’s services. In due course the statutory guidance may be reviewed in the context of wider legislative changes to reduce bureaucracy around planning for children’s services.

Associated resources

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