Community Care finds low council interest in social work practices

Only 11% of English councils will pilot outsourcing their provision for looked-after children to independent social work “practices”, Community Care has learned.

Seventeen councils contacted the Department for Children, Schools and Families over the possibility of acting as commissioners for the GP-style practices pilots.

Le Grand: pleased at response

The academic behind the idea, Prof Julian Le Grand (right) of the London School of Economics, did not discuss figures but told last week’s British Association of Social Workers England conference that he was pleased and “surprised” by the response.

He admitted some council managers disliked the idea, proposed in the 2006 Care Matters green paper on services for looked-after children, viewing it as a criticism of current practice.

In a well-received speech, he accepted that some questions over where accountability would lie for children in care remained, but these would be examined during the six to nine pilots.

But he countered other criticisms, such as that outsourcing social work for ­vulnerable children was immoral, saying independent agencies were already used for fostering.

Le Grand also suggested extending practices, which could be small groups of practitioners or run by larger providers, to other care services, including for adults.

Councils worried on accountability

After the conference, a Local Government Association spokesperson said it was aware of concerns among members that the outsourcing might affect accountability for corporate parenting, and had expected interest to be even lower.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of fostering and adoption charity Tact, which is interested in becoming a pilot provider, said: “Local authorities are ­probably wary of giving responsibility for such a large budget to small groups of practitioners. It is more likely to attract approaches from large third-sector organisations.”

A DCSF spokesperson said social work practices were one of a range of tools in the Care Matters white paper to support local authorities’ improvement of outcomes for looked-after children.

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Charities fear financial risk of running practices would be too high

Join the debate about social work practices on CareSpace

External information

Piloting the social work practice model – a prospectus

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