David Cameron is insulting social workers’ intelligence over privatisation, according to Bridget Robb, the chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW).
Responding to the Prime Minister’s speech last week, which warned failing councils to transform or be taken over by an external provider, Robb said: “You can’t dismiss the effect of cuts to services on the quality of services provided by local authorities, particularly when private companies are benefitting from this under-investment.”
The ‘Smarter State’ speech by Cameron called for the public sector to innovate like businesses, but Robb said it championed privatisation and the government was continuing to “insult our intelligence with a series of carefully crafted smokescreens”.
‘Out of touch’
Robb said Jeremy Corbyn’s victory in the Labour leadership election last weekend showed the government is “out of touch on many issues of concern to the public, privatisation being one of them”.
“Social workers are all for innovation and improvement but in the context of accountability and not profit,” she said.
Robb referred to proposed government legislation last year, which would have allowed local authorities to delegate children’s services to private companies and was widely opposed by the sector. She said that while the proposals had been changed, they still allow private companies to make money out of children’s social care by having non-profit subsidiaries.
She claimed a parent private company would still be able to charge any subsidiary for services. “So private companies can still profit from contracts to provide child protection and other children’s services.”
‘Hamstrung’ social workers
Robb said social workers were providing a good service in many areas, but are “hamstrung” by the narrow vision of the government.
“The number of children coming into care is sky-rocketing. We need to challenge policy that is based on explaining social problems as the bad behaviour or choices of the poorest people. There is a need to move away from blaming and punishing people and social work has a role in standing up for social justice,” Robb said.