This declaration has been prepared by West Midlands Social Work Action Network, the Birmingham Branch of UNISON and Birmingham against the cuts for debate and discussion at the Public meeting ‘No to the privatisation of children’s social care services’ to be held on Thursday 23rd October 2014 at 7pm in Birmingham Council House.
Birmingham declaration against privatisation of Children’s social care
Birmingham is at the forefront of the Government’s attempts to reform children’s social care through the Le Grand Reviews and imposition of a Government appointed Commissioner. The Con-Dem Government is attempting to impose change upon children social care services through public spending cuts, marketisation and privatisation.
Change and improvement of social care services are necessary for Birmingham’s children but that change must be led by principles of social justice, human rights and democracy. We declare the following principles for such change:
1. A public duty to children
There is a longstanding cross-party consensus that society generally, and the state more specifically, has a unique and unconditional responsibility for all children, encompassing duties to ensure their education, health and protection and to uphold their rights and freedoms as citizens. …Children’s public services are among the most important manifestations of this duty. Their funding, design, delivery and workforces are crucial to the wellbeing of children. (from Declaration of interdependence in children’s services)
We endorse this public duty and uphold that Local Council’s are best placed to lead and fulfill that public duty to children in the communities that they serve. The Birmingham City Council should reaffirm its strategic role in leading the development of children’s services in the city. The Council must rebuild and lead effective partnerships to promote the welfare of Birmingham’s children.
2. For more and better democratic control of children’s services
Deepening local democracy not introducing market frameworks must lead improvement to social care services in Birmingham. Birmingham’s historic problems identified by Le Grand will not be solved by moving services out to an independent Children’s Trust.
Improvement demands real political commitment by our local political leaders to improve the lives of vulnerable children in the city. Real challenge is produced from effectively functioning local democracy together with a political will for change.
Effective structures should be created to enable the wider participation of all those affected by and having an interest in children’s services in the city.
3. There is no place for profit in providing children’s social care
The conditions for improving children’s social care services are best met by continued public provision. Knowledge and expertise for improvement lie in the public sector and there is a successful track record of peer support to enable improvement.
The risks of the Governments reforms of children’s social care are the fragmentation of children’s services including the fragmentation of accountability in the critical area of safeguarding children.
There is no evidence base to support the claims for the proposed moves by the Con-Dem Government to marketise and privatise children’s social care services. Rather the evidence of the extensive privatisation of children’s services from the USA suggests ”it is difficult to harmonize the financial and operational goals of private providers with the aims of child welfare.’ (Zullo)
It is fundamentally wrong that private companies should have an opportunity to profit from the public care of vulnerable children.
An independent Children’s Trust in Birmingham could be the first step to full outsourcing and pose major problems of accountability.
4. Children’s social care services must be fully funded to meet the needs of Birmingham’s children
The historic underfunding of children’s social care in Birmingham cannot continue. Birmingham should close its relative underspend on safeguarding services and bring its spend in line with other comparable local authorities. Further the Council must disclose the level of resources needed to provide services to ‘unidentified children at risk’.
Cutting universal, family support and preventative children’s services to fund frontline Child Protection services is the ultimate false economy. The Council must fight for secure and stable funding for a comprehensive range children’s social care services in Birmingham in the years to come.
5. Change should focus on improving social work and social care practice
Improving the conditions of practice for social workers working with children and their families must be the priority of improvement and change. In future service redesign and ‘new ways of working’ should enhance not undermine professional practice.
Ensuring a stable and well trained permanent workforce is a condition for providing quality services for young people and their families.
6. A commitment to reducing inequality for children growing up in Birmingham
A third of the children growing up in Birmingham do so within families living in poverty. Reducing social inequality in the city will reduce the future likelihood of children being harmed.
The council as a public body should have an interventionist role in reducing social inequality and improving the life chances of all Birmingham’s children.
A PDF version of the declaration can be accessed by the following link Birmingham declaration
In March 2014 Prof Julian Le Grand completed a review on behalf of the Government into Birmingham Council’s Children’s social care services. Le Grand was asked to consider the likelihood of the Council leading improvements in services and also alternative options for delivering those services.
While focused on Birmingham his review was intended to assist the Government with thinking about ‘improvement interventions’ for other failing Local Authorities. The position of Le Grand is that where public services are failing they should be replaced by new institutions to provide the service.
The Le Grand Review and follow up Reviews which are due to report in September and December should be seen in close relation to the change in Regulation to allow Local Authorities to delegate a range of their social care functions to third party organisations.
While new Regulation empowers Local Authorities to delegate more social care functions to a third party provider Le Grand identifies a structural blockage the absence of alternative capacity. His task on behalf of the Government is to consider how to create a marketplace of providers to whom the powers can be delegated. The Le Grand Review(s) are explicitly intended to provide the detailed strategic thinking to inform the Government on how to move forward their reform and privatisation of children’s social care, in this they are of national significance
To read more click on this link: Le Grand Privatisation briefing
The next open planning meeting of Birmingham against the Cuts will be on Monday October 13th at 6.00 pm in the UNISON Birmingham Branch office at 19th Floor McClaren Tower Priory Queensway. Note the adjusted time which is to suit the new opening hours of the building. If you arrive late and find the door locked ring me on 07538557155.
The provisional agenda is as follows:
1. Attendance and apologies
2. Plan to cut 6000 jobs by 2018
A) Service papers
C) Industrial Action tomorrow and ?
D) Joint campaigns
E) Public Meeting
F) Media campaign
A) Action today
B) Good Hope Hospital
C) Community Mental Health Partnership for 0-25yr olds
4 Children’s Services
A) Letter to Albert Bohr
B) Meeting October 23rd
5. Adult Care mutual
6. Libraries – public service mutual and future campaigning plans
7. Children’s Care letter and public meeting 23 October
8. Leisure Services
9. TUC demo October 18th
10. Conference on Council Governance October 28th
11. Date and content of next meeting (November 10th.)
12. Any other business
An Open letter to sir Albert Bore has challenged him to fully disclose how far the new investment in children’s social care will close the gap on Birmingham’s relative underspend on safeguarding services.
The Le Grand report and previous Annual Audit letters from the Council’s auditors have identified that the Council has historically spent significantly less than other comparable Local Authorities on social care services.
The Le Grand review of the improvement plans for the Department was commissioned by the Department for Education and found that ‘the average spend among the 20 local authorities with the highest proportion of deprived children is £779 per child, while Birmingham’s is £640 per head, the 6th lowest’.
The letter asks the Council leader to respond to comments from Lord Norman Warner. the Government appointed Commissioner, that the improvement plan requires a significantly greater level of investment than that budgeted for by the Council over the next three years.
Le Grand Review found that the shortfall in funding had probably led to fewer children at risk coming to the attention of pressurised safeguarding services.
The letter has been sent by the West Midlands Social Work Action Network, Birmingham against the cuts and the Birmingham Branch of UNISON which represents Social workers employed by the Council
Sir Albert is asked to: ‘Promptly publish the detailed analysis of those unidentified children at risk, the anticipated future demand for services required to safeguard and care for those children and the required level of resources for those services?’
Also in question is the decision by the ruling Labour Group to cut children’s services care budgets by £11m in 2013-14 in the wake of a critical OFSTED inspection of safeguarding services and against the advice of the Council’s Auditors.
Simon Cardy for West Midlands Social Work Action Network commented: The people of Birmingham need to know that critical services to safeguard and care for vulnerable children in this city are properly resourced for the future given the history of underfunding. Le Grand suggests that due to a shortfall of resources that some children at risk were not protected when they needed to be. Sir Albert needs to be completely transparent on this key issue.
Godfrey Webster secretary of Birmingham against the Cuts said “It is essential that the City Council proposes a budget and staffing levels sufficient to ensure the safety of Birmingham’s children. It is then clearly the government’s responsibility if children suffer or die because insufficient grants are provided to fund this level of service.”
Saturday September 20th 12.00 – 2.00 Waterstones High St.
Saturday September 27th 12.00 – 2.00 Waterstones High St.
Please come and help