Children’s minister hits back at child protection ‘privatisation’ claims

Listen to an excerpt from Edward Timpson's speech to delegates at Community Care Live 2014

Children's minister Edward Timpson
Children's minister Edward Timpson. Photo: Steve Back/Rex Features

Amid concerns from social work academics that government proposals to allow the outsourcing of children’s services will see child protection services privatised, children and families minister Edward Timpson has said claims of ‘wholescale’ privatisation are a misrepresentation of the government’s ambitions. Timpson addressed the issue during a keynote speech at Community Care Live 2014. Listen to the minister’s comments below.

Timpson said:

“Now this isn’t, as you may have read over the weekend, about privatisation. At the moment local authorities are accountable for statutory children’s social work and I want to be clear that the government has absolutely no plans to change this, but we are asking whether high quality services could be delivered by a wider range of organisations.

“We’re not talking about turning children’s services over wholescale to large companies with no expertise in this area, that is very much a misrepresentation of our ambition. Councils already have all sorts of other statutory responsibilities that they don’t provide in-house. They instead draw on the expertise, innovation and capacity of a range of other organisations from the voluntary sector and from small and medium-sized social enterprise, but not so in children’s social work.

“Let’s say for instance that you wanted to set up a small social work practice – a bit like a GP practice – with social workers at the heart of your community. An independent organisation, a charity or a mutual to which the council delegated powers. You would be able to shape its approach and the ethos to provide the outstanding services that you entered the profession to deliver but the law [as it currently stands] says you can’t do it…That law means that children’s social workers have been denied the freedoms that other professionals have enjoyed for decades…we want these freedoms available in children’s social care as well.”

 

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11 Responses to Children’s minister hits back at child protection ‘privatisation’ claims

  1. Jim Greer May 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    I am pleased to read this a clarification though to be honest I never leapt to the conclusion that child protection would be sold off to Serco et al. This would be in nobody’s interests and I don’t imagine that companies like that would be interested in such a high risk field which requires very specialised knowledge. The consultation, which readers can still respond to, asks whether their might be benefits in outsourcing. I think there could be under certain circumstances. Many in the field have complained with some legitimacy about the climate of managerialism that exists in some local authorities, along with other problems such as lack of IT equipment, lack of office space etc. Working as part of small practice would allow groups of social workers to work in a less hierarchical environment where quality practice was put before targets and have much more control over their working hours. They could also devise ways to involve their local community more in how their service was run, perhaps even having cared for children on a steering group. Social work practices could also be innovative in building up confidence in local communities and making local media aware of the quality of their work
    Social work is not and never has been an activity which can only occur effectively by being a local authority employee albeit that there is some excellent practice in many local authorities.
    Its time for social workers to have confidence in what they can offer and what they can achieve. It will however require a change in culture and social workers who want to work in new structures will need support, advice and encouragement in processes such as tendering, employment law etc. it is not something which can happen overnight so Government local and national should proceed with care ensuring that quality is maintained and children remain the focus.

    • Phil Sanderson May 23, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      Well Hedge funds already run children’s homes accross the country and Virgin care runs all services in Devon. The tories want Birmingham and Doncaster taken over by private companies. Just as they have destroyed public education Gove is now turning to us to give a dose of his zealotry. Smell the coffee as they say!

  2. mark May 21, 2014 at 10:42 am #

    The Minister is wriggling because he has been sussed out.

    Just like they have done to the once admired probation service, and just as they have done to home care services, the tories are seeking to further smash up the welfare state and make it just another area of public life that is hived off to profit making corporations often owned by the hedge fund managers who actively support and sponsor the Tory Party.

    I do think that just like chunks of the wlefare state have been given to Capita and Atos Health Care the intention is to do the same for childrens services. Then we can have the marvellous prospect of Capita/Atos social workers sending the children of the poor into Capiat owned and run childrens homes. It will be profit all the way!

  3. Em May 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Whenever I hear a government minister talk about children services I switch off and do not take them serious because they know nothing of the reality of working with vulnerable children and families and are truly ignorant of the realities that face families.

    I do support the following for politicians:
    1. The privatisation of all politicians.
    2. Politicians to be culled on a regular basis when they display idiotic ideas.
    3. Politicians to be fitted with electric shock collars with the public grant access via the internet to shock them. A bit like big brother.
    4. All policitians to have a months work experience at junior level of the fields and departments that theyre in charge of.

    • Chris Sterry May 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

      Em – You forgot the main area to support and that is that all politicians should be permanently connected to a lie detector, so that the public could for once trust what they say.

  4. Chris May 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    The thought of privatisation is frightening, as field workers know a child protection case carries more points than a child in need case. Will this be the basis of price per case in the private sector? If so, we can guarantee that the number of child protection cases will soar. Will court cases render more remuneration? Of course they will and we will then have more children in care and how is this to be monitored? The Reviewing Officer? don’t be daft, the councils will be paid a sweetener to engage these ‘agencies’ and will not like to upset their ‘sugar daddy’ . The legal system, doh! now that legal aid is curtailed, they need more cases and the money. Ofsted monitor the process, ha ha ha! and they will be visiting how often? Ironic isn’t it, that the government is pushing through all this legislation to safeguard the ‘looked after’ child and yet in one fell swoop will silence that child and it’s family.

  5. James Brown May 21, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    Targets will always be a part of quality practice, social workers will never be able to escape from that. Especially if a contract to deliver a service between and SME and a Local Authority dictates that the target is met in full. The Local Authority can set an incredibly high standard for service delivery and there will always be suppliers who say they can meet their requirements as long as the financial reward is tempting enough…the question is will the Local Authority have the money to tempt companies into investing in this area? Top salaries attract top talent but you can’t pay if you don’t get paid in turn.

  6. Logical Larry May 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

    I had a feeling this would happen shortly after this govenment voted themselves in.. Funding has been restricted along with spending power, services like Connections were closed down and buildings sold off for what reason!!! Altough makes a good case to vote for privatisaton of services….Schools, Hospitals, fire service and the police will be next. 🙁

  7. Ken May 21, 2014 at 11:11 pm #

    Oh dear – I fear my generation has seen the Social Work profession at its’ best and those entering the sector now may see its’ sad demise. As ever, politicians know the price of everything and the value of nothing. The next 25 years will be a bad time to be a child at risk in the UK.

    • Jazz May 24, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Sad days for the UK as right wing policies seek to continue to divide and conquer through modern management theory, greed and ego the very essence of nurturing, caring for and protecting citizens.

  8. Lyndelou May 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

    my opinion is that the government ministers who are behind privatisation should work for at least 12 months in a busy area office dealing with the trauma’s and work pressures from the courts and the endless red tape and legislative hoops we have to jump through and then see if they think that this is a good idea. I joined social work to try to make a difference and all that really is different is the endless pressures from above to make a silk purse from a sows ear, in the meantime children are suffering because we leave them too long in situations that are having a negative impact on them. the cutbacks in finances and sadly compassion seem to be just accepted and if things go wrong, well a sacrificial social worker will be thrown on the fire..