SUNDERLAND is a step closer to setting up a new organisation to deliver its children’s services.

The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by Sunderland City Council and Nick Whitfield, the Government’s Commissioner for Children’s Services in Sunderland, paves the way for Together for Children to become a company in its own right.

The agreement is designed to support working arrangements between the council and the Department for Education(DfE) ahead of Together for Children becoming a company in its own right next April.

Councillor Paul Watson, the Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “This is a significant step forward in the transformation of Children’s Services and safeguarding in Sunderland.

“It’s recognition of the need for a fundamental change in the way services for children are delivered to ensure the best possible future for children and young people in the city. And it builds on the considerable progress we have made already in improving services since July 2015, including £16m of further investment to strengthen management and support and take on additional frontline staff.”

“The new organisation will create fully integrated children’s services covering education and children’s social care. We believe this is the best way of helping to deliver excellent services for children and young people to help them live safe, happy, healthy and successful lives.”

The council has been working closely with Nick Whitfield, the Commissioner for Children’s Services since the July 2015 Ofsted report to look at how it can do things differently to ensure the best possible services for children and families.

Mr Whitfield said: “The council has been very co-operative in recognising the need to do something different from the start which is something it deserves credit for and I’d particularly like to thank Cllr Watson for the way that he has worked with me to ensure better outcomes for children.

“We’ve seen significant progress over the last 16 months and the new company provides a real opportunity to deliver innovative children’s services that can ensure further improvement and sustained delivery.”

Councillor Louise Farthing, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, added: “Improving children’s services is a key priority for the City Council and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a significant milestone on the road to ensuring that children, families and young people get the services they deserve.”