Socialist Party
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17 October 2007

Children's homes at risk of buy-outs

IT IS like a scene out of Oliver Twist. A big private equity firm (which are notorious for their high profits and cost-cutting attitudes) bought up a profit-seeking company in 2000 that ran 45 care homes for sexually abused and autistic children. That subsidiary has now gone bankrupt (Observer, 14 October 2007).

The unfortunate children were then shunted back and forth between different local authorities many had no place to go after school ended.

Cuts in council budgets, and the government's love of privatisation have caused a stampede of private equity firms into both the foster care and elderly care sectors. Private equity firms now control 30% of the 'independent' ie profit-seeking foster agency 'market'! How many other children's homes are in danger of bankruptcy or of private sector buy-outs?

This government's laissez-faire approach to private business has made London the world's buy-out capital. Most capitalist firms, particularly crudely in the case of private equity firms, run for profit and flourish or crash on the anarchy of the market.

Foster agencies look to private sector firms because their high profits give them the chance to expand or alternatively go belly-up. But why is there a market in children's misery? Why aren't local authority social services departments well enough financed and staffed to deal with tragic cases of sexual abuse or the problems of severe autism?

No more privatisation of vital social and health services! Care homes owned by private corporations should be taken into public ownership and become part of the NHS or of a well-financed local authority social services department.

Keith Whitehead