Deborah was recruited to set up and chair these two independent companies intended to turn round challenged children’s services on behalf of local authorities, reporting to the Secretary of State for Education.
In both companies she had responsibility for children’s social care, early help, and education, supported by unitary boards and respectively 650 and 550 staff, with budgets of £110 and £90 million. Her role included recruiting and leading both executive and non-executive leaders, disaggregating services from local authority systems, sorting out finances and processes, addressing legacy problems and building the base of a positive and productive culture of transformation and improvement.
In Reading, we went live with BFfC on 3rd December 2018. Services were rated inadequate, budgets overspent, and morale was low. By December 2019 we had moved up to ‘Requires Improvement to be Good’ following an Ofsted inspection, set in place a transformation programme which was on track to make more than £11.5m savings over three years, and begun to build a happier and more focussed culture throughout the company.
In Sunderland, Together for Children launched in April 2017, following one of the worst inspection judgements in the history of Ofsted in 2015. Around half of the positions in the company were vacant, including nearly all the management roles, and morale was understandably low. Three bumpy years on we had built a strong and highly motivated team, were showcasing some outstanding work, and were getting a grip on delivering lean and effective services to improve children’s lives.