First things first, who am I and why are you getting these posts from me? I’ll not go into too much detail as you can find my bio over on the team page here. Needless to say I am a registered children’s Social Worker with experience in all teams involved in child protection and safeguarding children.
The reason for this post is to take a quick look at the gap between the public and private sectors. A fortnight ago I was working for a large local authority in their children’s services and, it has to be said, a lot of the things you’ve heard are true. Case loads are massive unwieldy things; working conditions are, well lets just say ‘hot desking call centres’ and it will give you a starting point; workers are overwhelmed by the amount of work they have to complete and many are running hundreds of hours of lieu time that they will likely never take back. I may be mistaken but I’m pretty sure that this will apply to any social work office ion any part of the country. Social workers are regularly demonised by the media for failing children and leaving them in sometimes fatal but often dangerous situations. While it is fair to say that in the profession there are some absolutely amazing workers, there are of course some who are not so good same as any job. What I can say with total certainty though is that I have never met a Social Worker who doesn’t genuinely want to do the best for the children they work with, who doesn't want to make sure the children are safe or who would willingly put any of these children in danger.
All public sector Social Workers however are duty bound to fulfil certain statutory requirements as laid down by the Government. These could be for example the wider reaching, ensuring children do not come to any harm or the more precise, again as an example, ensuring all 16 year old’s in care have a Pathway Plan in place by three months after their 16th birthday outlining the plans in place to move onto independence.
The government is currently talking about, (or threatening to, depending on your point of view) handing statutory child protection services over to private contractors. In 2014 this idea had originally been floated but had been defeated at a relatively early stage, however in this years Children and Social Work Bill, currently with the House of Lords a concern was raised about Clause 15 which says it will:
'…allow great social workers to try out new approaches and be freed from limiting bureaucracy, all in the interests if achieving more for children.'
BASW (The British Association of Social Workers) and others have said that this is a backdoor to the privatisation of statutory services, allowing Local Authorities to farm out their statutory responsibilities
Bit of a leap.
For a start how on earth do you build a business model around protecting children? Somewhat sarcastically: Every child you keep safe for a year you get paid a set sum? Bonuses for removing children from their families? This is not a thing despite what some people would say about it. Take a look at comments feeds on articles about social work on pretty much any website for that little gem.
That is not to say however that the private sector can’t play a role in statutory services. Examples that immediately come to mind include:
Private care providers writing and updating care plans and pathway plans for the young people in their settings;
Social Workers are asked to write reports in private proceedings (Section 7 reports) around contact issues or custody of children. These could be completed by social worker in private settings.
Providing statutory training to education settings in safeguarding and child protection
Here at Pivot we work, not for or against Local Authorities, but in partnership to ensure the needs of children are met in the best possible way, and surely that’s the most important thing.
Should you wish to discuss any of the issues raised above further or talk about how Pivot can help support you then please don’t hesitate to contact us on the details on the contact page.