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