The Department for Education has today refused our freedom of information request for disclosure of a report it commissioned from LaingBuisson in 2014. We understand the report contains advice for the Government on moving children’s social care services out of local authorities. This could include the major transfer of children’s services to profit-making companies.
In February 2014, the Government published a report into the future of Birmingham children’s services written by Professor Julian Le Grand, Alan Wood and Isabelle Trowler. They argued that improvement in children’s services at Birmingham was:
“…hampered by the current lack of available improvement capacity, whether in the private, not-for-profit or local authority sectors. We need urgently to consider how such capacity can be created or promoted such that the range of options available can be fully explored. This is particularly the case for a large authority like Birmingham where both the scale and persistent nature of the problem indicate the need for a radical, long-term solution.”
Le Grand, Wood and Trowler* recommended the DfE commission a study on developing different options for the delivery of children’s services which could be triggered by the Secretary of State. They said this study should be completed by September 2014.
Since this study is highly pertinent to the Children and Social Work Bill, which threatens to massively deregulate children’s social care, we asked for a copy of the report last month. Today’s refusal relies on an exemption in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which permits continuing secrecy when future publication is planned. However, the refusal states the Government plans to publish the report in “summer 2016”, which has already passed. The response states, “It is not reasonable for the Government to be expected to release piecemeal information in advance of its planned timetable”.
We will request an internal review of the refusal, mindful that this process could take up to two months – which would be too long for the next stage of the Children and Social Work Bill’s deliberation by Peers (18th October).
*Julian Le Grand is Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics, Alan Wood is a former teacher and children’s services senior manager and Isabelle Trowler is Chief Social Worker for Children and Families.