The government yesterday launched a standard residential child care contract designed to ensure a level playing field between councils and independent sector providers, at a conference in Birmingham.
Local authorities currently have a range of arrangements with different children’s home providers and large numbers of placements are still spot-purchased.
Councils have also been criticised in a string of government-commissioned reports by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers for unjustifiably commissioning in-house over external services and failing to open up children’s services markets to private and voluntary sector providers.
The framework contract is not compulsory but comes “strongly recommended” by government, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Local Government Association.
Speaking at the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care conference, Alison Trainor, of the Independent Children’s Homes Association, said: “This contract should provide the basis for ensuring the development of open and transparent relationships between purchasers and providers that ultimately lead to significantly improving outcomes for children and young people in our care.”
Northamptonshire Council officer Silka Smith, who led on the development of the contract, told the conference that during the document’s development some stakeholders had raised concerns that it was biased towards purchasers but suggested providers had become more supportive over time.
“It will enable all parties to the contract to collaborate in securing placements that add value to individual children’s quality of life and outcomes, and provide good value for money,” she added.
The contract is the second of a series of national contracts for children’s services and follows the national contract for the placement of children in special schools. Contracts on independent fostering and leaving care are also set to be launched.
Essential information on services for children in care