Child protection outsourcing loophole leaves door ajar for private sector, experts warn

Children's services still at risk of takeover from profit-making companies, say unions and social work academics

Sad child
Photo: Chameleons Eye/REX

Child protection services are still vulnerable to takeover by profit-making companies in the wake of revised legislation published this week, public services union Unison warned today.

Last week the Department for Education published an official response to its consultation on outsourcing children’s services, which announced – following widespread concern from across the social work sector – that councils would only be permitted to delegate functions to non-profit making organisations. But an explanatory note to the draft Children and Young Persons Act states: “The regulations will not prevent an otherwise profit-making company from setting up a separate non-profit making subsidiary to enable them to undertake such functions.”

Helga Pile, Unison’s national officer for social care, said: “The government claims to have listened to concerns from charities, organisations and professionals over their reckless plans to turn child protection into a profit-making venture. But the truth is they have left a back door open for profit making companies to set up non-profit subsidiaries to take over the critical and sensitive function of deciding how best to protect vulnerable children.”

She added: “There is a huge risk that the likes of Serco and G4S could create these subsidiaries as part of their wider businesses. These companies could end up making a profit out of vulnerable children and their families. There is an obvious conflict of interest as some of these companies also run children’shomes. It will make it difficult to know how funds will flow between their profit-making and non-profit making arms.”

Such a situation could undermine public confidence in child protection services, said Pile.

Professor Ray Jones of Kingston University, who headed a group of academics opposing the government’s plans to outsource services, told Community Care: “I was very surprised to see that despite recent understandings, following considerable public concern that profit-making private sector organisations could take on services such as child protection, that the government is now explicitly stating that private sector companies will be allowed to provide these services despite the significant outcry from the public and professionals.

“All of this is happening with what increasingly looks like a degree of deviousness, with no debate in Parliament and without any real clarity from the government about what it now seems that it always intended – that children’s social services should be opened up to the marketplace,” he added.

 

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2 Responses to Child protection outsourcing loophole leaves door ajar for private sector, experts warn

  1. Steve Mainwaring June 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm #

    Why is it assumed that there would be a ‘conflict of interest’ if child protection was ‘outsourced to the for profit sector. How many times have we seen statutory bodies ‘drop the ball’ when it comes to child protection, how many local authorities have been placed in ‘special measures’ because of failing to protect. Charities and other third sector providers may come under the umbrella of non profit organisations but can still set their salaries as high as they see fit. Surly no one is naive enough to think that just because an organisation is ‘non-profit’ it is not susceptible to ‘conflicts of interests’.
    People need to remember the majority of J. Savell’s abuses took place in not for profit National Health Hospitals

  2. Harvey Gallagher July 2, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    Much of this debate has been poorly informed and polarised. But mainly, those expressing views seem more concerned about the type of organisations they want to work for and have deliver services. What they should be much more concerned about are the actual services that children and families are offered, and that can and is delivered well (and poorly) by lots of different kinds of organisations.