Children’s services to be contracted out to independent providers?

At a time when the recent Supreme Court decision has focused minds on the issue of legal liability for foster care, and with ever increasing demands on local authority children’s services, Laing Buisson, healthcare consultant, has published a report suggesting large-scale contracting out of children’s services is imminent.

Central government funding for local authorities has fallen by £2.4 billion since 2010, however the expectation to deliver good outcomes and provide better services remains.

The report states that there is a drive towards a ‘payment by results’ approach and because of the scale of the children’s social care market it is an attractive option for investors.

Laing Buisson refers to a successful fostering scheme in Birmingham which is one of the children’s services which has been taken over by a Government trust. The scheme is called ‘The Step Down Programme’ and is funded through a social impact bond. The provider is a social capital investment fund and they only get paid if a foster placement remains stable after 52 weeks.

The programme saved the council approximately £880,000 with 70% of the placements making it through the project and remaining stable.

The report considers moving services to outside providers and could offer ‘scale and scope’ to services which find themselves under huge budget demands, with associated improvement in quality and better value for money.

However, this is not the first time there has been a suggestion that children’s services should be moved from local authorities to independent providers. In 2014 the Government reversed a decision to allow councils to outsource children’s services to outside providers, following a privatisation row. With the introduction of the Children and Social Work Act 2017 there were concerns over how the ‘exemption clause’ could open the door to private providers. Involvement of external providers in other traditional local authority processes has not always been successful and the potential for this to be seen as a negative money making option must not be ignored. There is no straightforward answer to this conundrum but clearly with increasing demand and need it is not a problem which can be ignored.

Written by Nicola Aspinwall, solicitor at BLM

Vicarious Liability is on the move – again!

The long awaited decision in Natasha Armes (NA) v Nottinghamshire County Council [18.10.2017] UKSC  was handed down today in the Supreme Court by Lord Reed.

The court rejected an argument that the local authority had a non-delegable duty of care but decided (4:1) for the claimant /appellant, Natasha Armes, that the local authority is vicariously liable for physical and sexual abuse suffered by her whilst in foster care and perpetrated by foster carers.

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IICSA – the challenge of keeping all engaged

The Survivors of Organised and Institutional Abuse (SOIA) group have today withdrawn its support for the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), with reports saying it has lost confidence in the process.

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Proposed reforms of criminal charge of Misconduct in Public Office and its potential relevance to non recent sexual abuse claims

The ancient common law offence of Misconduct in Public Office had largely fallen into disuse since the late 18th century, but has recently seen an increase in use where there have been allegations of sexual abuse. Following a consultation reform is recommended.

In the last decade the offence has been used in relation to journalists paying police officers for information and more recently it was used to prosecute a clergyman for abusing a group of young men over a 15 year period.

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Shirley Oaks and Redress

The Shirley Oaks Survivors Association (SOSA) has today published its report regarding abuse of children in care at Shirley Oaks. Lambeth Council has indicated that it will make a payment to all residents irrespective of whether or not they were abused, with greater sums for those who did suffer sexual abuse.

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Mandatory Reporting consultation deadline – 13 October

English law does not currently require mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. A consultation published in July by the Home Office and Department for Education seeks comments‎ on the introduction of mandatory reporting or a duty to act. Responses are due tomorrow, 13 October, at noon.

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Home Affairs Committee – IICSA

Today the Home Affairs Committee heard oral evidence from the Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary, and Mark Sedwill, Permanent Secretary, Home Office regarding the work of the Home Secretary. Dame Lowell Goddard who had been invited to attend did not and sent a memo (reported on yesterday) specifying her reasons for her resignation.

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