Children's services should protect children not profit
Children’s services, including children’s homes and protection services, offer essential care to vulnerable children and young people. In 2014, the government abandoned plans to privatise child protection services after being forced to back down on proposals allowing councils to contract them out. Following an online consultation which received 1,300 responses, only 2% agreed with the proposals. A further 72,000 people signed a petition objecting to the plans.
However, nowhere else in the world are for-profit companies given the same power over children's services as in the UK - private equity firms already dominate the ownership of children's residential homes, with 65% run by the private sector. Alongside this, recent government proposals renew the threat to the public ownership of child protection services.
What you need to know
- Private equity firms dominate the ownership of children’s residential homes –.they already own two of the three biggest foster placement providers.
- 65% of residential homes for children are now run by the private sector, while only 11% of children’s home places are run by charities.
- 28% of privately owned children’s homes are below a 'good' standard, while 63 privately run homes are in the worst ‘inadequate’ category.
- Laingbuisson, research analysts of private health and social services, have found that between 2010 and 2012 outsourcing to private children's homes rose by 8%.
- The Children and Social Work Bill introduced by the government may enable councils to opt out of legal duties relating to the care of vulnerable children.
- There is a risk that new government legislation could encourage cash-strapped local authorities to use private providers to deliver statutory child protection.
- Even if profit-making companies such as G4S or Serco are banned from child protection, they may be able to set up non-profit subsidiaries to bid for the work – and still profit by channelling funds back to the parent company.
What are the risks of privatising child protection services?
Private companies provide a worse service
The government had previously announced plans to outsource areas of children’s social services and to relax, or remove, some of the legal requirements around placement of vulnerable children. They have undertaken pilots in six areas to bring in the private sector. A government evaluation into the pilots found the public sector may be “better placed to respond to the uncertainty that characterises the needs of children in care”. The pilot also found that contracted-out organisations struggled to provide children in out-of home care with the consistency and continuity they require.
Concerns about accountability have been raised as charities and not-for-profit organisations running child protection services will not be regulated or registered. Additionally, they will not have to be rated or inspected by Ofsted in their own right.
What are the risks of privatising children’s homes?
Costs go up but service goes down
In 2015, the Personal Social Services Research Unit revealed that the cost of one placement in a private children’s home is £4000 per week. In contrast to this, local authority care costs £3000 (and a foster care placement costs £637). Despite receiving more funding, one quarter of private sector homes cannot provide adequate levels of care.
One of Britain’s largest providers of children’s homes is owned by a US private equity firm GI Partners. One third of its 130 homes in England are below a 'good' standard.
Children are moved far away from their family and friends
The high cost of places in residential homes means many authorities now move children out of London, which means they lose contact with friends, family and caseworkers. There are also concerns that the placement of children’s homes are being driven by property prices rather than needs. For example, over one quarter of children’s homes are concentrated in the North West, with just 6% in London, despite the capital having the largest, and youngest population in the country.
What you can do
Parts of the Children and Social Work Bill currently going through parliament would allow councils in England to be excused from their legal duties to provide for and protect vulnerable children and young people. These laws have been built up over 80 years to protect vulnerable children.
Yes! I want public services for people not profit.
Photos used under Creative Commons licensing, thanks to Anthony Crider https://www.flickr.com/photos/acrider/
Mon 12 Dec 2016. Source: www.theguardian.com
Wed 02 Nov 2016. Source: www.communitycare.co.uk
Mon 03 Oct 2016. Source: www.thecanary.co
Fri 30 Sep 2016. Source: www.communitycare.co.uk
Mon 13 Jun 2016. Source: www.theguardian.com