Published: 05/02/2004, Volume II4, No. 5891 Page 6

The government looks likely to adopt a 'light touch' setting out the structural requirements of children's trusts in the forthcoming Children's Bill.

National Children's Bureau chief executive Paul Ennals told last week's joint HSJ/Local Government Chronicle conference that the government appeared to accept concerns that trusts should organise themselves according to local need. He added: 'The key thing is not to focus on restructuring... I think the government will increasingly recognise this.'

Mr Ennals, who is a member of the Department of Health's children's taskforce, said he expected the policy to focus on joint commissioning arrangements and common assessments, and to demonstrate 'a light touch on structures'.

His comments came after the medical director of a pilot trust said she feared the government would impose restrictive models set out in its green paper Every Child Matters before the pilot trusts had been given enough time to demonstrate progress.

Huntingdonshire primary care trust medical director Dr Jill Challener said: 'I hope we are going to have time to report on our performance before the rest of the children's trusts are rolled out in various guises.'

She said her trust, which targets children with problems to help avoid later exclusion, had not felt the need to transfer staff. 'It is about us pooling resources by donating these people and their time. It works by working together.'

Mr Ennals told HSJ that he felt the government was listening to the views of organisations like NCB on the forthcoming Children's Bill.He was optimistic that local organisations would be given flexibility in terms of structures and timetables.

'We feel the messages are being listened to, and we feel the government now understands. I am hoping the bill will not be as prescriptive as to what children's trusts should look like.'

However, Mr Ennals told delegates that there would need to be 'some restructuring' of services in order to implement the children's national service framework, after delegates complained of the pressures of constant reorganisation.

And national clinical director for children Professor Al Aynsley-Green warned the audience that it would not be possible to accommodate all their desires through the NSF, and that its final contents would be subject to political influence.

Given that about 500 pressure groups had contacted the DoH with their views on the NSF, he said that not all were going to get every paragraph they wanted.

The DoH has said the NSF should be available this spring, though Professor Aynsley-Green could not confirm an exact time.

Mr Ennals said: 'It is important that the government keeps to its previous published commitments that the NSF is due in April.'