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BASW campaign helps force Government U-turn over children's privatisation plans

The Government has bowed to opposition from campaigners including the British Association of Social Workers to proposals that would have allowed private companies to profit from vulnerable children.

BASW launched an online petition calling on Ministers to rethink plans outlined in a consultation document published in April entitled Powers to delegate children’s social care functions.

If adopted, third party providers would have been able to deliver children’s social care functions in England.

However, in its response to the consultation, the Department for Education has now said: “Having considered the responses, the Government has decided to amend the draft regulations so that the extended range of functions can only be delegated to non-profit making organisations.”

BASW’s Chief Executive Bridget said: “We are pleased the Government has recognised the potential dangers of handing over decision-making about the lives of vulnerable children to profit making organisations.

“We know that our members will still have concerns over how this latest announcement will impact on local authority children’s services departments.

“That said, future discussions must focus primarily on the quality of service being provided to children on families rather than the structure of the provider.”

Under the new regulations, to be introduced in the autumn, local authorities will be able to outsource social care functions to mutuals, community interest companies and other not-for-profit organisations.

The Government claims the measures are a response to local authorities “who have been pressing for the freedom to try new approaches to improve services for vulnerable children”.

England’s Chief Social Worker for Children Isabelle Trowler said: “As a profession we have talked for years about the need to be more in control of our professional practice. These new freedoms to encourage innovation give us a great opportunity to do just that in partnership with local government.”

The Government said the biggest concern raised in the consultation was the “prospect of ‘privatising children’s services’ and the introduction of a potentially contradictory profit making imperative to work with vulnerable children”.

It also highlights the creation of three online campaigns and petitions, such as BASW’s, opposing the plans.

Other concerns raised by many of the 1,300 respondents were the risk of local authorities being motivated in choice of provision by cost rather than quality and the “dilution of local authority accountability”.

The Government claimed a number of respondents had misunderstood the affects of the proposed changes on accountability, claiming: “They would make no change to the legal position, which is that the local authority remains accountable to service users and voters even where it delegates functions and where Ofsted will continue to hold it to account for the quality of services however they are delivered.”