Birmingham’s beleaguered children’s service have come under repeated assault from Ofsted and senior politicians and is seemingly unable to lift itself out of a crisis. Some say this has been in its own making.
The Government and appointed experts have suggested that Birmingham is ‘too big’, it has been poorly led and it needs a clean break from the past. Julian Le Grand and his review team said that constant re-organisations had been demoralising and that there was a ‘lack of external challenge’.
Birmingham does not take as many children into care as other authorities, but in doing do may be placing more children at risk? If families are to be supported how do making massive cuts in preventive services help?
There has been a historic under-spend in children’s services compared to other cities with comparable problems. The council say they have put back £9m, but are coy about the fact that this has only been found at the expense of cuts elsewhere in children’s services.
Social work vacancy levels are running at 25% with many experienced staff leaving to work in neighbouring authorities.
The Con-Dem coalition is pushing for all children’s services to be outsourced and wants Birmingham to lead the way. In April the Government proposed that council’s could delegate almost all of their social services functions relating to children. There was a massive outcry to the idea that G4S and Serco might be in charge of child protection. 70,000 people signed a petition and 37 leading experts wrote to a national newspaper in protest. In June the Government announced an apparent U-turn but the redrafted regulations allowed profit-making companies to set up a ‘non-profit making’ subsidiary.
How do we oppose privatization in all its disguises? Should we entertain non-profit making organisations or are they the thin edge of the wedge? Is Birmingham’s Labour Group giving up on children’s services every remaining a directly run service and why?
This meeting will give a platform for the opposition to and the arguments against privatisation to continue to be heard. All welcome.
About the Speakers
Sue White is a professor at the Institute for Applied Social Studies, at the University of Birmingham and was one of a number of leading academics who signed the petitioning letter published in the Guardian in May (http://bit.ly/1nZDR04) that made front page news. Sue’s latest book with Brig Featherstone and Kate Morris, ‘Re-imagining Child Protection: Towards humane social work with families’, is published by Policy Press.
Helga Pile is UNISON’s National Officer for social care and social work. Helga is a frequent media commentator and represented UNISON on a wide range of social work issues including the Social Work Reform Board.
For more information and a background briefing see the document attached below for download.