Moves to outsource children’s social care services in Birmingham progressed after the Council Cabinet yesterday gave the green light for detailed proposals to be drawn up for either a wholly owned company or an employee owned mutual to run the care services.
While the Council would retain full legal responsibility an independent trust would run the services on its behalf. The Trust proposals will potentially affect 1,200 employees whose employment would be transferred out of the Council.
The redesign of Birmingham’s Early Years services is likely to take the best part of 5-6 years from conception to execution. Birmingham’s Early Years Services currently provide support to around 100,000 parents and 80,000 children at any one time. Early years services consist of Children’s centres, Health Visitors, Parenting support and Pregnancy and breastfeeding support services which support parents from the time a child is conceived up until the age of 5.
There has been a major service review over a nearly 3 three year period, and the current procurement process up to the award of the new contract is likely to take a further 10-11 months, there will be a further period where the contract is implemented. This extended period of time and the convoluted nature of the processes involved have provided useful political cover to the Council’s Labour leadership who have still not had to name and own the actual cuts and closures in Early Years services to come.
WEDNESDAY MAY 14th 7.30pm
BIRMINGHAM COUNCIL HOUSE
ALL PARTIES AND INDEPENDENTS INVITED TO SPEAK ONGOING ANTI-CUTS STRUGGLES ALSO INVITED
What Way Forward For Birmingham
“ The game’s out there, and it’s play or get played. That simple”
Forget Birmingham’s children, the Le Grand review of Birmingham’s failing children’s social care department is part of a bigger national political game and Birmingham’s failings are Michael Gove’s opportunities.
Gove set out his agenda last November when he stated ‘I believe that we have not been either systematic, radical or determined enough in our efforts to reform the system of children’s social care in this country.’ (1) Going on to question why Children’s social care services needed to be provided by local councils.
All the better that Birmingham is a high profile Labour controlled council, that has been politically hamstrung by it’s failure to prioritise and improve services to vulnerable children in the city while simultaneously cutting them.
The well documented difficulties of social care services in the city over more than a ten year period and failure to adequately safeguard children have allowed the Government to appoint a Review Team whose brief included making proposals for alternative arrangements for delivering these critical services.
The Review has been led by Prof Julian Le Grand, and while nominally independent Le Grand has impeccable neo-liberal credentials as a champion of independent Social Work practices under the last New Labour Government and an exponent of competition and market forces within public provision.
A shortfall of resources has been identified as a critical issue in the Le Grand Review of children’s social care services in Birmingham which was published last week.
The independent review was appointed by the Government in November to report on the ability of the Council to make improvements to it’s safeguarding services after being rated as inadequate by repeated OFSTED inspections since 2009.
The underfunding of child social care in the city is identified as a likely factor affecting the relatively low rate of child protection referrals into the Department.
The report raises a current concern that there are a significant number of young people in need of protection who have not been referred to the council, what the report calls at ‘unidentified risk’.
The Reviewer’s compared the rates of referral and safeguarding activity between different council’s and found that there are a lower number of active child protection cases in Birmingham than should be expected.
In Birmingham the rate of child protection enquiries per 10,000 children for 2013 was 107.5 compared to the national average of 111.5. This rate of referral would also be expected to be higher in Birmingham due to the higher proportion of local children living in poverty and in low income families in the city.
The review authors raise the possibility that Birmingham has developed a high threshold criteria to cope with the under resourcing of safeguarding service.
Every cut in social services by the City Council raises questions of local democracy: who is making the cuts, how are they being made, why do ordinary citizens feel they have no influence over Council decision-making? That is why BATC is responding to the recent Council report on ‘Citizen Engagement’.
The report can be found on the 4th February Council meeting website at http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/democracy/Pages/AgendaDetail.aspx?AgendaID%3d77404
‘Citizen Engagement’ is the title of a new 48 page report by the Districts and Public Engagement Overview and Scrutiny Committee, published on 4 February. The Committee comprises Councillor Lisa Trickett (chair) and Councillors Atwal, J Evans, T Evans, Islam, Lal, Pears, E Phillips, Pocock and Underwood.
IN SUMMARY: BATC says people have the right to participate in the decisions which affect their lives – where there is power there must be effective public participation. We need a new model of local government in Birmingham which significantly increases citizen engagement and influence. Ward Committee meetings need to be redesigned to enable maximum public participation
• Ward Committees shouldn’t be run just by councillors but by a Board comprising the councillors and an equal number of elected local citizens.
• The agendas should be opened up to citizens’ agenda items and resolutions.
District Committees need opening up to local public participation
• District Committees shouldn’t comprise only councillors. They should include elected non-councillor representatives of Ward Committee meetings and representatives of other relevant local organisations.
• District Committees should meet at times and places convenient for local public participation.
The Council’s city-wide structures need democratising to enable public participation
• For Council Committees to be established in every service area with co-opted members elected by Ward Committee meetings and other relevant bodies.
• For Scrutiny Committees to be opened up to public input and participation.