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Review of residential care ‘unnecessary and costly repetition’

Review is an ‘attempt to extend the Government’s privatisation agenda’

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have expressed concerns that the review of children's residential care will not be an authentic consultation with the sector and is actually an attempt to extend the Government's privatisation agenda.

The review was announced on 28 October and will be headed up by Sir Martin Narey. The Department for Education describes it as "the latest step in the government's programme to improve the outcomes of children in residential care". 

BASW members who have contributed to the 2013 Education Select Committee inquiry on residential care have contacted the Association to query why they are essentially being asked for the same information again just two years later.

Commenting on the review announcement, BASW Chair Guy Shennan said:

"The political drivers behind this latest announcement need to be examined. The provision of children's care has become a commodity predicted to be very lucrative for private companies. The timing of this review is extremely tight, with a deadline of only two months including the Christmas period. BASW members have queried if this is sufficient time for an exhaustive analysis of children's residential care or if it is the government's way of seeking validation of an already agreed strategy. They find it hard not to see this latest announcement as anything more than a further roll out of the government's privatisation agenda.

"In the Government's response to the inquiry findings in 2014, the Children's Social Care Innovation Programme featured heavily. The response also cites a report undertaken by the Department of Education and Deloitte Social Care Practice. This report admits residential care is relatively high-cost, around £1 billion out of a total of £3 billion. It also emphasises new partnerships between education and care providers that could include joint work between Academy schools and fostering services or between boarding schools and care services.

"The Government needs to be honest about its agenda for residential care so that a proper debate can be had. Social workers are tired of having decisions foisted upon them under a smoke screen of 'consultation'. The primary objective of this latest review should be to listen to what children in care are saying, to reduce placement moves, to be aspirational for children in care; not for them to become part of a commissioning commodity.

"The Government also needs to consider the impact using negative rhetoric has on children in the care sector. Using language linking them to prostitution and suicide may go down a storm at party conferences but is not going to do much for children's self-esteem. While BASW's view remains that this exercise is an unnecessary and costly repetition with a restrictive deadline, the Association will engage in a full response on behalf of members to ensure the views of both the social work profession and children in care are heard."