Proposal to delegate Looked After Children work
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Comment from Community Care
The new plans will enable local authorities to delegate looked-after children’s services to any type of external organisation. It could be a social work practice, but there’s nothing to stop councils turning to large charities or businesses instead. In short, adoption, fostering and other looked-after children’s services could be farmed out to anyone that the local authority regards as fit to run it.
“Our concern is that you will end up with large multi-purpose contractors moving into this area,” says Helga Pile, national officer for social work at Unison. This, she warns, could lead to conflicts of interest that could work to the detriment of looked-after children and taxpayers.
“You could have a situation where a provider who employs people to support looked-after children, and find placements for them, could be the same company or a subsidiary of a company that is also providing placements. So, there could be some murky incentives in there.”
A spokesperson for Virgin Care said the company supports a model that provides “long-term care planning and delegation of responsibilities that enables a broad range of options rather than being limited to the social work practice model”. He added: “While we acknowledge the importance of being clear about responsibility and accountability this proposal will allow local authorities to have a wider choice of opportunities for children in care enabling them to drive up the quality of services.”
The change will also mean providers of these services will not be subject to individual Ofsted inspections. Instead, they will be inspected as part of wider local authority inspections for looked-after children.
The DfE says this will remove red tape: “As Ofsted has said they will inspect all services that providers are running on the behalf of councils through their new, more rigorous framework, we are removing the now unnecessary requirement for providers to register with them separately. This will reduce bureaucracy so more time and money can be focused on providing high-quality care.”