The Socialist 3 February 2021 |
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Children in care: Privatisation is not working
photo Anthony Kelly/CC (Click to enlarge)
Social worker and Unison union member
Many people would think that children, who are in the care of a local authority, would be safe, well cared for and free from the risks of sexual or criminal exploitation. Sadly that is not always the case.
Some of the children who were involved in the Rochdale sexual abuse scandal were living in a children's residential home that was run by a private equity company. Following the Rochdale scandal, a review of private children's residential care provision revealed that one in three of the homes run by the two largest providers were classed by Ofsted as either "inadequate" or "requiring improvement".
In a task this important, requiring a high level of safeguarding skills, it is shocking that most of this care is provided by the private or charitable sector, and not directly by local authorities. Private care will always have the need to make profit high on its agenda.
The six biggest providers of children's residential care made £219 million profit last year. Some made over 20% profit.
75% of children in residential care are cared for in the private sector, and one third of children in foster care are placed with private agencies.
Children over 16 can go into the unregulated sector, often called semi-independent accommodation. They have been known to be placed in boats and caravans.
And these placements do not come cheap. One placement can easily cost several thousand pounds a week.
80,000 children were in residential care in March 2020. The costs of such placements can cause huge financial difficulties to underfunded local authorities.
In addition, many children are placed far from home, requiring the added upheaval of changing school - many miles away from family and friends. Among my own social work team, many of our teenagers have been placed 40 miles or more from their home city.
The Socialist Party calls for local authorities to directly provide children's social care. The big private chains, that currently provide this care, should be taken into public ownership.
Councils must stop passing on cuts, and cuts to central government funding must be reversed.
And the workers should be paid a real living wage of at least £12 an hour.