Following last week’s revelations that LaingBuisson has advised Ministers on how to achieve “whole system” outsourcing in children’s social care, we have updated our briefing for Members of Parliament.
MPs debate the Children and Social Work Bill for the first time this afternoon.
Our updated briefing summarises the LaingBuisson advice and highlights the possible links with exemptions from statutory duties. We note the Government’s response that it will not compel local authorities to outsource all of their children’s social care services or allow profit-making organisations to deliver them. This does not explain:
- where exemptions from statutory duties fit in the Government’s strategy to stimulate the market in children’s social care;
- why, if Ministers had rejected wholesale privatisation of children’s social care services in June 2014, that same month LaingBuisson was commissioned to research ways of developing the capacity of private companies and the voluntary sector to deliver these services?
- how the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, a senior civil servant, could be so intricately involved in research that makes radical proposals (mandatory outsourcing and privatisation) which Ministers reject?
- why there was a two-year delay in publishing the report.
We conclude that, if Ministers intend to pursue the exemptions policy, there should be Green and White Paper consultation so that the rationale (and any evidence) for them can be widely shared, including with children and young people; answers can be given to the many questions and concerns expressed since the Bill was published; and Ministers can explain how fragmentation of children’s law fits (or doesn’t fit) with stimulating the market in children’s social care.