OK…let me stick my oar into the debate about government proposals to privatise aspects of child protection work.
The Government argument that child protection could be improved if some parts of it were farmed out to organisations with specialist expertise does not hold up to even the most cursory close reasoning. Why? Because all current child protection practitioners either work for local authorities or the police. All of them. That is because no aspects of child protection are currently allowed to be managed by the private sector.
There is no magical pool of expertise or company which secretly knows how to protect children better and is just waiting for its chance. Any company that wished to take on the work would have to recruit expertise from the public sector. So what, pray tell me, is the point?
Driving down costs!
This is how it would work: Private companies such as G4S (god forbid) will tender for contracts and a major factor in whose bid wins will be cost. Imagine an organisation said, “we’ve looked at how much it will cost to protect children in this area and it is actually much more than the authority is currently spending”, would they get a contract?
I work for a private children’s home. The vast majority are private and 70% of children’s homes say they cannot afford to run outstanding services because of the pressure to keep fees low. Now there are big chains of kids homes owned by millionaires and private equity firms but the one I work at is small and very ethical and even the directors aren’t making all that much.
We have not been able to put up our fee’s for five years because we would not have had any referrals if we did. That means in very real terms less money is being spent on helping some of the most vulnerable children in society. No one has had a pay rise in that time and very capable staff leave. This damages children.
Why would privatising child protection work get results when only a quarter of children’s homes are rated outstanding by Ofsted?
The Government want to spend less money on protecting vulnerable children. But they could hardly tolerate headlines saying “millions slashed from child protection budgets” and this way they don’t have to. They can just blame the private companies when it all goes wrong.