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75,000 kids in foster care - and counting: end cuts and for-profit care
Kris O'Sullivan, former foster child, Birmingham Central Socialist Party
"Fostering sector ripe for consolidation... fostering is a growth market... private equity and other companies have been attracted to the sector largely because they can see the potential for cost savings..."
These were the thoughts of the Financial Times back in 2013. Translation? Children going into care are seen as a profit opportunity by capitalist vultures.
And business is good. The numbers of looked-after children rose to 75,420 this year, a 4% increase according to the Department for Education.
Austerity is the main driver of the rising number of children in care, as more and more families cannot cope financially. Social issues such as neglect and abuse also play a major role.
But also, the profit motive of privately owned care firms - mirrored in the business model of charity care firms - sees kids as commodities, risking a perverse incentive to put more into care.
Since 2010, savage austerity cuts have gutted already underfunded frontline services, and devastated local council welfare provision. This has pushed working-class and poor families to breaking point - and break they have.
Youth services destroyed, after-school programmes cut, nurseries privatised.
Draconian benefit sanctions, women's refuges disappearing, and widespread destruction of our welfare state. It all means a steady supply of children with price-tags for the private equity firms pulling the strings.
My own old foster care company, Foster Care Associates, was recently sold off to a private equity firm whose holdings include a leading company in pig slaughter. I'm sure they're only thinking about the kids' welfare'.
Who is to blame? The Tories and their austerity for sure - and Labour councils passing on the Tory cuts without a fight. And that's not even to mention Tony Blair's legacy: privatisation, opening up foster care to 'market forces'.
For the true welfare and protection of looked-after children we need foster care brought into public ownership, and all the cuts reversed. Councils have the power to start this now by using reserves and borrowing to make up the shortfall and building campaigns to win the money back.
The Tory government and its Blairite enablers must go. To solve the problems in foster care, we need a general election now. A Corbyn-led government, with socialist policies to end austerity, must commit to fully funded public ownership of the care sector.
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