Privatise child protection services, Department for Education proposes
The proposal from Michael Gove‘s Department for Education (DfE) to permit the outsourcing of children’s social services in England to companies such as G4S and Serco has alarmed experts. They say profit-making companies should not be in charge of such sensitive family matters, and warn that the introduction of the profit motive into child protection may distort the decision-making process.
A DfE consultation paper published last month argues that enabling local authorities to outsource children’s social services will encourage innovation and improve outcomes for at-risk youngsters.
Private providers will allow authorities to “harness third-party expertise” and “stimulate new approaches to securing improvements” for safeguarding services outside “traditional hierarchies”, the document says.
Professor Eileen Munro, whom Gove commissioned to carry out an independent review of child protection published in 2011, said establishing a market in child protection would create perverse incentives for private companies to either take more children into care or leave too many languishing with dangerous families.
“It’s a bad idea,” she told the Guardian. “It’s the state’s responsibility to protect people from maltreatment. It should not be delegated to a profit-making organisation.”
Some 10,600 youngsters were subject to care applications to the family courts in 2013. Another 43,000 were on English council child protection registers in 2013, meaning they were monitored by social workers because they were considered to be at risk of neglect, or sexual, emotional or physical abuse. About 68,000 children were in the care system in England in 2013.
Separately, a letter published in the Guardian today and signed by 37 senior social services academics led by professor Ray Jones, of Kingston University, warns that child protection is too important to be left to the “fickleness and failings” of the market.