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BASW: Profiteering private firms won’t save under-funded LA social services

BASW has hit out at Sandwell Council’s decision to award a £1.5m 30-month contract to management consultancy firm iMPOWER to run its children’s services.

While frontline staff will remain council employees, iMPOWER and its human resources partner Penna will be responsible for the delivery of services.

The council told the BBC that the money to pay the company comes largely from savings in top management posts at the council.

But speaking on BBC Radio WM, BASW chair Fran Fuller described the new arrangement, believed to be the first of its kind, as “every social worker’s worst nightmare”, and said private companies should not be profiting from the under-resourcing of social services across the country.

Ms Fuller said: “The council should be employing the appropriate managers, not giving cash to private companies. Management can only do what they are resourced to do.

“Everyone knows that social work is under-resourced in this country. We recently presented our State of Social Work survey to MPs in parliament, and they were dismayed by the findings. There is a real crisis in social work and the situation has been worsening for some time.

“Care referrals have risen dramatically, and that heaps more pressure on social workers. We’re talking about human beings here, not number crunching - we are talking about the lives of children.

“Social workers can’t do their jobs protecting children unless they are properly resourced. That’s where the money should be going, not to private companies.”

Under the new arrangements iMPOWER and Penna have recruited Suffolk County Council’s current head of children’s services to act as interim director of children's services at Sandwell.

Darren Cooper, the leader of Sandwell Council, described the move as about bringing in experts who “know what excellence looks like to support the management team”.

But Ms Fuller warned: “Decisions such as these are every social worker’s nightmare. If you asked social workers at Sandwell what they could do with £1.5 million, it wouldn’t be employ a consultant. This is just another kick in the teeth at a time when social workers are on their knees.”