‘This time next year we will be Millionaires Rodney’ (Only Fools and Horses). It’s a nice thought and one I often dreamt about. The joy of never having to worry about ‘How are we going to pay the bills?’ Or ‘Can I afford that top?’ Is one that brings joy to me. If only! However, increasingly there is growing concern that private companies are starting to increase in their profit from the care of vulnerable children. A big business where children with complex needs are being placed into ‘safe’ accommodation, which is not being run by the Local Authority. More concerning is that some of this provision when inspected by Ofsted is not achieving the inspection outcome of Excellent that should be required in order to provide this care.
The question that has been asked is ‘Is it right to profit from the care of vulnerable children?’. The sensible answer is that we know that if a business is to be successful, it has to be profitable. But is this a sensible answer to care? I am sure David Cameron and his Tory colleagues would love to break down the perceived damaged and broken care system in order to profit from their private interests in private Health and Social Care issues. So I am glad that this is now being challenged.
It is important that when children have been found a place to live that they are invested in, achieve the permanence that we all enjoy. That at the first fall, they are not rejected because the behaviour will cost too much money. That time, boundaries and care is going to be provided to break down the perceived image that children in care are worthless and all criminals. Or that deep down breaking the image that they are bad and naughty and that’s why they are in care.
However, I have been able to visit a variety of residential homes that have been developed out of ‘City funding’ and the care and detail to the care that is provided has been outstanding. Starting with the ethos of the home and its workers to the commitment going above and beyond what is expected. On the down side I have also seen homes where proft has come at the expense of the young person and one I could not leave any child in. The difference is massive, as is the impact upon the young person and their outcomes in life and why this question is so important.
It is not just Residential homes of course that make money from caring for children – Fostering agencies also profit as exposed by Children as Core Assetts. Although Children as Core Assetts goes further implying that Children are stolen in order to help certain individuals profit. I am sure a story that the Daily Telegraph and Christopher Booker would love to write!
The real argument though should be the investment in an experienced workforce. Where workers leave consistently and frequently adding further pressure on caseloads and on the assessment process. Meaning support needed for families can not always be provided by and managed in the most appropriate way. The aim of ensuring children can remain within their family setting should be the main goal, reducing the need for external placements that drain the resources of local authorities further.
Business, profit and social work are terms that do not sit comfortably together more so when it comes to the care of the most vulnerable people in our society. However, where individaul effort and thought can use the resources available to make a much needed difference in a young persons life, I can not argue with this concept. However, I can and will when it has the reverse impact on such vulnerable lives. Profit should not come before safegurding and profit should not come before a safe and warm living environment where the physical and emotional needs of a child can be met.
I guess that means this time next year I wont be a millionaire then!