Pressure is building on the government to review its controversial decision to award a contract for improving residential children’s homes to private consultancy group Tribal.
The decision has taken the responsibility for driving improvement in residential care away from the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Care (NCERCC) and cast doubt over the charity’s future.
However charities and sector figures have now called on the Children and Families Select Committee to try use their influence to suspend the award and organise an “urgent public enquiry”.
In a letter to committee members, Phil Frampton, former chair of the Care Leavers Association, wrote: “Ed Balls’s replacement of the NCERCC by the multinational company, Tribal Group, to secure ‘excellence’ in children’s homes indicates a further move to turn children in care into commodities for profit.”
Frampton told members that the decision “bodes a serious setback for children’s care, as what carer with integrity will not [be mindful] that Tribal’s recommendations may be based on building the groups’ and their associates’ profits rather than successful outcomes for children?”
He told Community Care that he believed the move would lead to “many of the smaller children’s homes and charitable providers being taken over or going into administration”.
Delma Hughes, programme director for the children’s charity Siblings Together and a member of the development group for looked-after children at the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, said:
“I fully support calls on the government to reverse this decision. The NCERCC has made so much progress in the last four years. The government is nipping all of their good work in the bud very prematurely.
“The NCERCC, crucially, worked with the sector to drive improvements. There has not been enough information from the government on who Tribal is or what their remit will be. We don’t know what the NCERCC’s considerable body of work and expertise will be replaced with and, given that it has been such a big part of an important community, we really should be told more.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) said: “Tribal were awarded the work after successfully completing a full formal tender process including rigorous assessment.
“Following this process Tribal’s team put in a stronger bid. Tribal brings to the project a talented multi-disciplinary team with a wealth of expertise and knowledge in residential care.”
Tribal said it had nothing further to add to statements already put out by the DCSF.
Meanwhile, Community Care understands that leading children’s homes professionals are in talks to establish whether new cash can be found to keep the NCERCC afloat.