Opposition to outsourcing of child protection gathers pace

By Joe Lepper

| 19 May 2014

More than 8,000 people have signed a petition condemning government plans to outsource child protection services.

Children England chief executive Kathy Evans believes no commercial organisation should profit from public spending on child protection. Image: Lucie Carlier

The petition has been launched by voluntary sector umbrella body Children England in response to a government consultation over the plans, which could see private providers run a raft of children’s services including child protection.

Launched on Saturday, the petition entitled ‘Keep Profit Out of Child Protection’ had been signed by 8,363 people within 72 hours.

Children England’s chief executive Kathy Evans said: “Many will recognise the need to explore possible new ways to improve and transform children’s services if their rights and lives are to be well-protected long into the future.

“However, [Education Secretary] Michael Gove must ensure that no commercial company and its shareholders should ever be able to make profit from public spending on child protection. Such an important public function must never be open to the real, or even perceived, risk of being done in the pursuit of profit.”

This latest criticism follows a letter signed by 37 academics and published in The Guardian last weekend condemning the opening up of children’s social work and child protection to the private sector.

The letter says that “child protection is much too important to be exposed” to the “fickleness and failings” of the private sector. 

Ray Jones, professor of social work at Kingston University and one of the signatories to the letter, said he hoped airing concerns now would make the government "reflect and revise its view" over the plans.

He added: "Local authorities should retain direct responsibility and delivery of child protection services including child protection investigations, supervision of children and child protection plans, and lead responsibility across agencies for child protection."

Jones said that once the "door has been opened" to private providers "it will be very difficult to close".

The consultation closes on 30 May and builds on existing legislation that allowed councils to outsource looked-after children’s and care leavers services first through social work pilots and then in all councils from November last year. Under the proposals, only adoption services would be exempt from the option of being outsourced.

Last week, Barnardo's was one of a number of voluntary organisations to indicate they would be interested in working with local authorities to deliver and manage children's social care services.

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