Year: 2019

Out-sourcing and impact of privatisation: Guardian article by Prof Ray Jones

This is a draft- article accepted with minor changes/ cuts

For the past 40 years successive governments have pushed crucial services out of public ownership and into a profit-prioritised market place. Despite the dismal track record of the big out-sourcing companies failing to deliver on their public service contracts, and over-charging central and local government, they have continued to have expanding opportunities to make money from the public purse.

This is now being challenged by Labour with a commitment to bring vital services back into public ownership and control Nowhere should this be more urgent than for those services which protect and care for children.

From 2010 the Conservative-led governments have forced and coerced local authorities to contract out statutory children’s social services. Widely opposed regulatory changes were introduced in 2014 allowing commercial companies to get contracts to intervene within families to undertake children in need and child protection assessments and take decisions about the care of children. Companies such as G4S, Serco, Virgin Care, Mott Macdonald and Amey have been hovering around the Department for Education ready to hoover up the contracts.

The privatisation of children’s social services is already a big money-maker for commercial companies, with money which should be spent on helping children and families now being taken as profit. The owners of these companies are increasingly private equity companies and distant venture capitalists whose only interest is how much profit can be generated.

Three quarters of children’s homes in England are provided by for-profit private companies. Almost a third of local authorities no longer directly provide any children’s residential care. On 31 March 2018 6990 children were placed by local authorities in private children’s homes. In 2016 the average weekly cost of a private children’s home placement was £3289 If there was a profit of 10% (a low target for out-sourced public services) on these placements the total profit being taken in a year is £110 million.

For children in foster care, on 31 March 2018 16,200 (39% of all children in foster children in England were in foster placements arranged through for-profit foster care agencies A government-commissioned 2018 report found that the average weekly cost to local authorities of each these placements was £823 (compared to a cost of £553 for a placement provided directly by a local authority with its foster carers), and that the private foster care agencies were making a profit of 10.5% In a year this totals a profit of £72 million taken out of children’s social services.

In local authorities in England 15% of social workers working in children’s social services are employed through private for-profit employment agencies This is 5,360 full-time equivalent social workers, and local authorities are paying £335 million a year for agency social workers Assuming a 10% profit this means £3.35 million is being taken as profit each year. But a 10% profit margin must be a considerable under-estimate as the company accounts of just two of the many employment agencies showed profits of £2.1 million (Liquid Personnel) and £2.2 million (Sanctuary) in 2016 as well as salaries of about a quarter of a million pounds being paid to each senior manager. Profits taken from children’s social services by social worker employment agencies in England are likely to be over £10 million a year.

In total, therefore, profits of £220 a year are being taken out of local authorities children’s services by private companies. There are also overhead and transaction costs for local authorities and for the companies of children’s services being marketed and purchased by councils and these are likely to total over £20 million a year – costs which would not be incurred if the local authority were providing the help and care for children.

£240 a year is equivalent to local authorities employing 480 children’s social workers in England. With each social worker helping about 20 children and families each week that would mean almost 10,000 more children and families getting help at any one time.

There should, therefore, be strong financial incentives for local authorities to provide rather than purchase these vital services for children. But even more important, poorer quality services are being bought at a higher cost from these companies.

Eight four per cent of children in private children’s homes, and 50% of children in private fostering agency placements, are not within the area of the local authority Children are being placed at a distance in children’s homes and with foster carers unknown to social workers and their managers. The children are less visible and more vulnerable. Private children’s homes pay their staff less and have fewer staff than local authority children’s homes Short-term come-and-go agency social workers have little knowledge of the children and families with whom they are working and children and families give up having relationships with a conveyor belt of social workers. Agency social workers who may be here this week but gone next week are placing children some distance away in one-off spot-purchased placements about which they and the local authority have little information. It is a disaster which is not waiting to happen but which is happening today.

So it should be a priority for government, whether Labour or not, to turn away from the commercialisation and out-sourcing of children’s social services. A start would be for local authorities to be compared and reported on what proportions of the children they are looking after are in care directly provided by the local authority and what proportion of social workers they employ rather than buying from agencies. It would also be a start for local councillors to commit themselves to caring for children within their communities rather than sending children away to be cared for by those who are unknown to the council.



1. Incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child into UK law. UNCRC article 4 2. Recommit to end child poverty through a progressive taxation system and social policies which tackle structural inequalities. Implement the socio-economic duty in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010, which requires public bodies to work towards reducing inequalities arising from socio-economic disadvantage. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 23 and 27

3. Redress negative effects of Universal Credit: remove the five-week waiting time which has led to families living in debt, and withdraw sanctions which cause families misery and fear. Reinstate social security for all children: remove the two-child limit, under-occupancy charge (‘bedroom tax’) and the benefit cap. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 23, 24, 26 and 27

4. End discriminatory social security for asylum seeking families, ensuring equitable levels and the removal of the stigmatising and restrictive state (ASPEN) debit card. All children to have full and equal access to social protection (including health, education, social care) regardless of their immigration status. Abolish the policy of no recourse to public funds in its entirety for families and care leavers. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 18(2), 22, 24 and 26

5. Review the diversity, availability, resourcing and quality of education, health and social care services for children and young people in the community and away from home – encompassing NHS and local authority provision and the voluntary and private (for profit) sectors. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 20, 24, 28 and 29
Our focus is children’s social care though other services and areas of policy (education, health and social security for example) deeply affect the lives of children, young people and families. The changes we propose would give the most help to children and families presently in the greatest need. We recognise the time and cost implications of our measures, though believe they can be afforded and implemented with the right political will. Some of our very specific proposals inevitably require further discussion and consultation with those most affected.
These 30 pledges combine comprehensive measures to support families with vital improvements to children and young people’s care and protection within the community and especially for those who no longer live with their families. All of the pledges relate to existing obligations within the UNCRC; we have signposted the most pertinent articles accordingly.
6. Introduce a comprehensive children’s workforce strategy integrating health, education, social care and youth justice to ensure sufficient numbers and capacities to meet the needs and uphold the rights of children and young people within the community and in residential (including secure) settings. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 20, 24, 29, 37c and 40

7. Introduce a statutory principle of ‘close to home’ for children’s mental health in-patient services and other specialist residential provision. Ensure no child is forced to live many miles from home unless this is in their best interests, and their wishes and feelings have been given due consideration. Introduce statutory waiting times for children, young people and parents in need of mental health care, and provide information and assistance to help people access this support. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(3), 12, 20, 23, 24 and 42

8. Remove the ‘reasonable chastisement’ common law defence so that children have the same protection from assault as adults. UNCRC articles 3, 6, 12, 19 and 37(a)

9. Close child prisons, ensure children’s contact with the criminal justice system is a last resort and develop the capacity of local authority secure children’s homes for those children for whom it is unsafe, at the present time, to live within the community. Ensure no child is criminalised as a result of abuse and/or exploitation. To protect children from damaging contact with the criminal justice system, substantially raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 19, 20, 37, 39 and 40

10. Continue the UK’s commitment to the Dublin III Regulation. If leaving the EU, establish the agreements necessary to ensure that children seeking protection can be reunited with family in the UK. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 10 and 22

11. Review leave policies for children subject to immigration control and ensure the child’s best interests is a primary consideration in all decision-making, ending uncertainty and providing security of residence. European national children in the UK to be automatically granted settled status. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 10 and 22

12. Adequately fund local authorities to meet their statutory obligations in the Children Act 1989 (using calculations produced by the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and others). Accordingly, strengthen the capacity of local authorities to provide financial and other support to families to prevent children entering care, to prevent offending by children and to prevent children being deprived of their liberty – as the 1989 Act intended. Ensure that access to support services for vulnerable children, including those in kinship care, reflects their needs rather than being dependent on their legal status. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(1), 18(2) and 20

13. Amend statutory guidance to the Children Act 1989 to make it explicit that no child can be separated from their family and brought into the care system due to poverty or homelessness alone. Establish a national programme to support careexperienced young people who are becoming parents, with the aim of keeping families together. Introduce polices which keep families subject to immigration control together. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 9(1), 18(2), 20 and 26

14. That kinship care be actively explored for any child who cannot remain at home, with financial and other support for carers (and ensure local authorities are adequately funded to provide this support). As a minimum, grant kinship carers the same access to support as adopters, including the right to paid leave and opportunities for specialist training. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 18(2), 20 and 26

15. Reinstate and expand universal, nonstigmatising services for children, young people and their families – from early childhood through to young adulthood.
UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 23 and 31

16. Make it unlawful for schools to exclude primary school children (fixed period and permanent). Establish a national initiative for achieving inclusion, backed up with resources. Replace the current Admissions Code and amend other national policies to end discriminatory practices in school admissions, exclusions and offrolling, especially against looked after children. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 6, 23, 28 and 29

17. Review the impact of formal testing and assessment on children’s development (including their mental health), to move to a system which puts children’s interests first while continuing to hold schools to account. UNCRC articles 3, 6, 12 and 29

18. Review the support offered to children with special educational needs and disabilities, with a view to substantially increasing resources and the capacity of families and services to work together to ensure each child enjoys their rights to education, health and social care. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 9(1), 18(2), 23, 24, 28 and 29

19. Extend free school meals to all primary school children, and establish pilots of universal free school meal provision in secondary schools in the country’s most deprived areas. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 18(2), 27 and 28

20. Ensure every child has access to an independent advocate so their wishes and feelings are understood and taken seriously. UNCRC articles 12, 13, 17 and 42

21. Ensure timely counselling or other therapeutic support is available to every child who needs it. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 24 and 39

22. Ensure homeless 16-and 17-year olds without the care of their family receive their entitlements to care, protection and support under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12 and 20

23. Ensure semi-independent supported accommodation is subject to registration, regulation and independent inspection, and that providers are required to safeguard and promote each child’s welfare. Introduce a legal presumption that children in care stay in accommodation where they are provided care and support until at least 18, unless this conflicts with the young person’s wishes and is not in their best interests. Prohibit the use of semi-independent supported accommodation in all circumstances for children under the age of 16. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 20 and 39

24. Establish a national implementation team, with the requisite skills, authority and professional respect, to ensure the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse are acted upon. Prohibit pain-inducing and other forms of dangerous and harmful restraint techniques in all children’s settings as a matter of urgency. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 19, 24, 34, 35, 36, 37 and 39


25. Put loving long-term relationships at the heart of the children’s care system – including children’s relationships with their brothers, sisters and extended families. Amend the third corporate parenting principle in the Children and Social Work Act 2017 (“to take into account the views, wishes and feelings of those children”) by adding “including the changes care experienced people want to see in the care system”. Ensure social workers have the time and support to build and maintain meaningful relationships with children and young people. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 20 and 39

26. Extend the legal entitlement of ‘staying put’ to young people living in children’s homes to 21 years of age and ensure these arrangements are properly funded. Amend local authorities’ statutory obligation of maintaining and providing suitable accommodation by adding, “including the prevention of homelessness”. Existing statutory guidance ‘Extending Personal Adviser support to all care leavers to age 25’ and ‘Local offer guidance’ recognise that care leavers may benefit from a range of support services up to 25 years of age: amend this to similarly extend entitlement to independent visitors, independent reviewing officers and specialist services. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 20 and 39

27. Ensure individuals who were formerly in care have priority for assessment for support services including housing, mental health and drug and alcohol services, and finance local authorities to provide ongoing support for care leavers for as long as they need it. UNCRC articles 20, 24, 26 and 39

28. Put respect, equality and fairness at the heart of our public services, bringing an end to programmes and policies which demean and stigmatise communities. Invest in ‘active offer’ independent advocacy services across all public services, for all age groups, so that those in need do not stand alone. Create new spaces and legal arrangements so that children, young people and adults who need or use public services can lead and influence their design, development, delivery and improvement – at the local and national levels. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 13 and 42

29. Reinstate legal aid for advice and representation over all aspects of social protection, including family separation, housing, social security and immigration. Ensure non means-tested legal aid is available where serious human rights matters are under consideration, including inquests held after a child or adult has died in the care of the state. UNCRC articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 12, 24, 26, 27, 37 and 39

30. Extend the right to vote to 16 and 17 year-olds. UNCRC articles 12 and 13

2019 Election What LSWG wants to see in Manifesto and policies


Dear Labour team and parliament colleagues with an interest in the future of social work and social care for children and adults

We are aware that the Manifesto will need to be tight, but backed by more detailed policy promises for a Labour government. This is a brief message to let you know that members of Labour Social Work group are ready, able and willing to provide detailed input to any briefings and party spokes-people on social work and social care issues that may arise during the campaign- either nationally or at constituency level.
Our over-arching point is that policies of a Labour Government on social work and social care for vulnerable children and for adults across the age and needs groups have the potential to undo much of the damage done to communities, families and children over the past 10 years of Conservative and Lib Dem governments

Labour Social Work group members looked closely at the policies emerging from speakers at Conference.  We strongly support the policies on universal services, – income support, health, education. housing. And we especially support the determination in Andrew Gwynne’s speech to recommit to local government as the body accountable for delivering high quality and democratically accountable social work and social care services.  The direction of travel towards ‘in-sourcing’ social care services for adults and children is welcome, of cost for reasons of reduced costs as well as effectiveness. Well-funded local authorities must be accountable for ensuring that those who need social care services, whether to prevent their difficulties from escalating or when they reach crisis point and need care away from home, must be a high priority and these must be provided by public servants and a public service ethos, working collaboratively with those who need the services and colleagues in the health, education, housing, justice and social security services
With respect to social care for adults we are in touch with the Reclaim Social Care Group and support their policy statement which you have already received, though we would add detail re supporting the role of social workers.
With respect to children’s social care services we welcome Angela Rayner’s commitments on Sure Start and the youth service, but regret that there was no mention in the Conferences speeches of social work support and protection services to children in their own homes and to those in care or leaving care. We broadly welcome but would like to help with the detail of a policy to replace OSFTED as far as children’s services are concerned.
We will be looking at the policies underpinning the manifesto to see whether the lack of expressed commitment to children’s social care  is remedied. In particularly we will be looking for a  Labour commitment to improving  social work education and training at qualifying and post qualifying levels to avoid the high turn-over rates that are so damaging to those needing help. This includes a re-think about how government funding available for social work education is most effectively used.
We are aware that you are working to a tight deadline but end with
Attached please find a more detailed agenda for Children’s services (which have sunk to a sorry level under the past two  governments)  prepared by Professor Ray Jones and also the 30  General Election Pledges sent to all parties by the Together for Children consortium, which we support as under-pinning principles for children’s services.
Every good wish for the election nationally and in constituencies



Children’s social work and social care services have been damaged over the past 10-15 years, as a result of budget cuts especially to local government, but also through a series of unevidenced, and minimally debated government initiatives, mostly intending to open up policy formation and service provision to large private consultancies and private for profit service providers. Below are proposals from members of the Labour Social Work Group about detailed commitments which should be considered for inclusion in the  Labour Party Manifesto and policy for children’s social work and social care services. There is considerable support for each across the policy, practice and research communities as can be seen from the following recent official reviews and inquiry reports:

  • The Education Select Committee with its Conservative majority and chairs.
  • The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report on children needing support and care
  • The APPG on social work.
  • The National Audit Office inquiries on social work.


  1. Labour will rescind the 2014 changes in statutory regulation introduced by the Conservative-Liberal Coalition Government which allows any organisation or company, including profit-making companies, to receive contracts and payments to undertake:
  • Children in need assessments and the setting and managing of children in need plans.
  • Section 47 child protection inquiries and the setting and managing of child protection plans.
  • Decisions to initiate care proceedings and the management of orders emanating from care proceedings.
  • Crucial decisions about the safety and welfare of children, and necessary involvement and intrusion into families, should not be undertaken outside of the direct accountability and transparency of local authorities. They are not functions and responsibilities to be managed by non-public for-profit or not-for-profit organisations where the contracting process creates complexity and opaqueness in accountability, where transparency is restricted by contracting out the services to non-public organisations, and where costs are increased by having to set, let and manage contracts.
  • Labour will also give notice that local authorities over a three year period should reduce their use of profit-making private foster care agencies and privately owned and managed children’s residential care which is syphoning as profit significant amounts from children’s services budgets.
  • The progress of local authorities to reduce their reliance on profit-making and profit-taking direct care services for children will be monitored through annual public reports submitted to the Department for Education, which will be renamed as the Department for Children and Education, and the Department for Children and Education will produce an annual overview report on the progress being made.

Within the annual public report from each local authority, and the annual overview report from the Department for Children and Education, there will also be an account of how local authorities are reducing over a three year period their use of social workers who are not directly employed by the local authority but recruited through private profit-making staffing agencies.The rationale and intentions of the commitments above are to:

  • Tackle the considerable sums of money which are intended to fund children’s social services which are seeping out of children’s social services as profits taken by private companies and their owners.
  • Increase the local authority immediate oversight of, and responsibility for, the safety and welfare of children and the care of children not living with their families.
  • Reduce the complexity and fragmentation which is increasing in the arrangements for children’s social services with the result that children in care are now often placed in foster and residential homes largely unknown to local authorities and the children’s social workers.


  1. Labour will require the national children’s services inspectorate, OFSTED, to contribute to the continuing development and improvement of children’s social services rather than only to inspection and rating of services.
  2. Labour will require OFSTED to develop a plan and process where it has regular engagement with senior councillors and managers within local authorities to monitor and reflect with the local authority on its performance and progress, to advise on actions which might be necessary within the local authority, and where and when necessary to alert the Secretary of State for Children and Education to any significant concerns about how a local authority is fulfilling its children’s social services responsibilities.
  3. Where these concerns are of such a magnitude, and where the Secretary of State is not confident that they will be appropriately and positively addressed by the local authority, the Secretary of State will have the power to appoint through statutory regulation a person of sufficient seniority, experience and expertise to give direction and directives to the local authority on how it is to provide its children’s social services. In the first instance this will be for a period of three years, a period which might be extended.
  4. In exceptional circumstances where a local authority fails to follow the directives it is given the Secretary of State will have the power to remove the responsibility for the services from the local authority and to transfer the responsibilities for that area to another local authority.
  5. To assist local authorities, and especially local authorities of particular concern, to improve their performance, the Local Government Association will be funded through a Statutory Children’s Services Specific Improvement Grant to create a regional children’s services improvement service.
  6. Labour will cease the process of local authorities being required or choosing to contract their statutory children’s social work services outside of their management and control. Where local authorities have already taken this action, the local authority will be required to inform the Secretary of State for Children and Education how it will resume the direct management and control of these social work responsibilities at the end of the current contract with another body, or within three years, whichever is the shorter period.
  7. The manifesto commitments above in this section are to:
  • Make explicit that statutory children’s social work functions are a direct responsibility to be delivered by local authorities.
  • Make clear that where a local authority is not performing well enough in delivering these responsibilities the local authority cannot distance itself from the responsibilities by contracting them out to another body but must follow directives given on behalf of the Secretary of State to improve its performance.


  1. Labour recognises that the major issue for children’s and adults’ social services is not recruitment into the profession of social work but developing and retaining social workers post-qualification.
  2. Labour will continue with the generic university-based undergraduate and post-graduate degree-level integrated qualifying education for all social work students. This will aid retention as social workers with a generic first professional qualification will be able to remain in social work whilst, if they choose, changing career paths and service areas.
  3. Labour will introduce the regional oversight and planning of qualifying and post-qualifying social work education through regional social work education consortia to include as the statutory partners the local authorities providing personal social services in the region and the higher education degree providers.
  4. Each regional social work education consortia should review the pattern and sufficiency of social work education provision in its region and produce a plan as to how this is to changed or continued over the next five years. This should take into account the assessment by Social Work England of the quality of the current social work qualifying degree programmes within the region, and where these degree programme are a major resource in recruitment by neighbouring regions their consortia should be consulted.
  5. Other agencies employing social workers in each region should also be consulted about the plans for social work education in the region.
  6. Regional social work education consortia should also develop ‘practice education agencies’. These will be social worker employing services which provide a focus on social work education and will be the major resources within the region for the practice placements of qualifying social work students, and especially on their final qualifying placements. The ‘practice education agencies’ should be assessed and accredited by Social Work England.
  7. Labour will require Social Work England to produce national frameworks for post-qualifying education based on social work’s Professional Capabilities Framework and it is through post-qualifying education and qualifications, related to role responsibilities and career development, that specialisation will be recognised and promoted. This will assist career progression and retention.
  8. The development of post-qualifying education will receive funding through a budget managed jointly by the Department for Children and Education and the Department for Health (and Social Care) which will be created from the current funding being committed to the programmes providing specialist and restrictive initial social work qualifications for a relatively small number of social work students.
  9. Using this funding, Labour will also continue with payment of bursaries and course fees for social work students.


  1. Labour is very concerned that statutory social work and social services with children and families has become focussed on monitoring families and taking invasive and coercive action to intervene when there are significant child protection concerns.
  2. This intervention will remain necessary when children are at risk of significant harm, but Labour will want children’s social work and social services to be re-set, within the framework which is in place within the 1989 Children Act, to work in partnership with parents to assist them to care for their children well.
  3. It will re-route the funding allocated through ‘troubled families’ programmes to local authority children’s social services so that they can provide family assistance services, intensively provided when necessary, to work with families and other agencies to help maintain, and where necessary, improve the care of children.
  4. In particular, learning from the research on Sure Start and family centres, Labour will work with local authorities to provide help for families with young children and throughout a child’s childhood.






Reclaim Social Care Group’s proposals for a Labour Social Care Service

This policy paper is written jointly in 2019 by members of the Reclaim Social Care Group (linked with Socialist Health Association and the Centre for Social Reform.  LSWG is linking up with these in arguing for an inclusive and collaborative and FREE social care service   See

LSWG committee  would be interested in comments of LSWG on this paper.



Chair’s Annual Report and Notes of Westminster meeting 25/07/2019

Notes from the Labour social work group, 25 June, 2019

1 Attenders  Emma Lewell-Buck MP and Lord Mike Watson; 18 supporters/members came to the meeting, including 6 new members and a good mix of students, practitioners, social work educators and retired social workers and academics.

2 Apologies for absence were received from 7 parliamentarians and 29 members/supporters, several of whom provided comments and offered assistance with the group.

3  A brief Chair’s report was presented by June Thobuen and members were   referred to the website 2019 report for more information on activities.


Members/ supporters:  140

Labour MPs/ Lords who are members/ with whom we have been in contact     29 MPs  6 Lords

Website  June 2018-June 2019    454 Views  223 visits

Twitter   996  Followers,    Following 576

Points that have come in from members of the group about issues they would like the group to concentrate on for the coming year, especially with a view having an input on Labour Manifesto and policy process. (Not all agreed LSWG policy but indication of views of Group members )

  • Ideologically, develop a public owned equivalent of ‘disrupted innovation’ currently owned by the Tories. Something around Innovation and quality for public trust type thing. I’ve mentioned it to a couple of MPs who seem to like the idea!
  • Investment in public first – this term appears politically neutral and therefore may appeal to a wider range of voters but is based on putting the public and public institutions first for social and economic investment. It may be the counter argument to ‘disrupted innovation’.
  • Social and economic investment in prevention for communities and people and public. Linked to this, development of Labour run localized services and networks. (eg in Brazil  ALL political parties whether in government or opposition fund social/community networks and services. If Labour had stuck to this instead of moving to centralized systems, they would be in a better place! They need to start a local grassroots system of community participation even when in government.
  • RE Health and social care integration:  Investment in care and care services. They really need to come out and say care should be publicly funded, and not as the government is floating via the media, subject to insurance schemes which again favour the wealthy. I’ve heard that this is the sticking point in the Green paper but I noticed that they are quietly embarking on a media communication strategy. I call this ‘political kite flying’ so once its announced, people are prepared. I’d suggest a way round this for Labour is via taxation, taxation to enter and depart the UK via airports for foreign nationals. May sound quite simple, but given most countries now have inward and outward bound tax it seems a very quick win for us and ALL this money would then be channeled to social care!
  • Abolish internal markets and internal single organisation commissioning procurement rules. Its against integration! This would require legislative changes. Develop an alternative pubic focused commissioning process which measures against outcomes and involvement and avoids making contracts subject to annual tender.
  • Continue to call for the ending of the preferential funding of Frontline and fast track social work education more generally. Engage with Labour MPs and councillors, public and vol sector employers and HEIs towards equitable distribution of whatever funding is available for qualifying social work education and training. (Background Note:  funding for FL is continuing whilst funding for the generally successful Teaching Partnerships (covering adults as well as children’s services is being phased out and sum allocated to HEI student bursaries and other government funding has not increased for several years (UPDATE- no increase for 2019-20)
  • Urge Labour policy makers to move towards making Social Work a unified profession/ service   within government i.e remove DHSC & DfE separation  (at local authority level too)
  • Must continue to oppose roll-out of NAAS  and attempts by government to dictate what is social work, and emphasise that LSWG should work with UNISON on this.
  • Continue to show how austerity policies (and hostile environment towards the most in need) (education, health, social security, justice (lack of legal aid) Housing, refugee and immigration services are impacting on the ability of social workers to provide a service to those most in need of their assistance.
  • Encourage moves towards neighbourhood-based community social work
  • Positive responses were received in responses to the recently circulated Labour Party strategy  document on strengthening Civil Society ‘From  Paternalism to Participation  But it was noted that there needs to be stronger commitment to the role of a properly funded local government bring this about. file:///C:/Users/June%20Thoburn/Documents/Documents/labour%20soc%20wk/Labour-Civil-Society-Strategy-June-2019.pdf   (UPDATE The lead MP for this Steve Reed MP has just moved from his role as Civil Society Shadow Minister to the Shadow Children’s Minister.

June Thoburn announced that she will be retiring as Chair following this meeting.  She proposed that Prof Sam Baron  a social work academic and researcher at Manchester Met University, with a specialism in Adult social Services take up the role as Chair following time for a careful handover and that Helen Wood (a former Labour Councillor and currently children with disabilities specialist social worker be appointed as a Vice Chair.  (Bios of these will be on the website shortly- the hand-over will take place over the Summer)

8 attenders or those sending apologies offered to be committee members; additionally 12 members/supporters offered assistance with different aspects of the group’s work

Hon Treasurer’s Report Jackie Mitchell, Hon Treasurer has sent her apologies. Her report is:

Current Bank balance  £201   Main expense  Website fee  £15

It was noted that UNISON has funded 2 Pop-ups for the group to use an conferences etc.

Jackie has been Hon Treasurer since the start of the group in 2015 but gives notice that she is retiring from this position.  JT thanked Jackie for taking on this role and undertaking the complex business of getting bank account set up.  The incoming Chair and Vic-Chair will seek a new Chair within their own areas and a handover will be arranged.

5  Professor Ray Jones distributed and talked through his briefing on what LSWG would be looking for in a Labour Manifesto/ Policy document.


a) Rescind the 2014 statutory regulatory changes which allow statutory children’s social work services to be contracted out to commercial companies and other non-public organisations.

 The current position is that in England [unlike anywhere else in the world] any profit or not-for-profit company can be contracted by local authorities – forced or coerced by the government – to undertake all statutory children’s social work responsibilities including:

  • Children in need assessments and child protection investigations
  • Setting and managing children in need and child protection plans
  • Initiating court proceedings to have children removed from their families.
  • Deciding where and with whom children subject to a care order should then live.

Outsourcing generates:

  • Additional (continuing) cash and time costs
  • Takes attention away from current services.
  • Adds complexity and confused and distant accountability
  • Creates unnecessary change and churn and instability
  • Delays service improvement
  • Drains children’s social services of public funding

Companies including G4S, Serco, Virgin Care, Amey and Mouchel have engaged with the DfE in discussions about how to open up the market for statutory children’s social work services [in England] with the DfE advised by KPMG and LaingBuisson and with Mott Macdonald now contracted to shape social worker accreditation.

This all generates a poorer riskier service at a higher cost.

Out-sourcing has increasingly been a public concern and found to generate high risks, and the 2014 changes were significantly opposed. Rescinding the power to outsource statutory children’s social work duties and powers is likely to be popular.

There are other actions which can and should be taken if local authorities are continuously not providing safe and adequate services:

  • Mandatory partnerships with well-performing councils.
  • Government-appointed service directors with power to direct a council on its arrangements for children’s social services.
  • A time-limited governance board – with a membership decided following consultation with the LGA -to replace councillors and allocated the powers and duties of the council.

b) Introduce local authority performance measures which promote public sector provision to secure continuity of care for children and families.

c) Amend the Children in Need annual statistical returns to include:

  • Percentage of looked after children within a foster care or residential care placement directly provided by the local authority.
  • Percentage of social workers – and separately of managers – directly employed by the local authority.

The current position is that:

  • 72% of children’s homes [in England] are now provided by private companies.
  • Almost half of local authorities [in England] provide no children’s homes.
  • More than a third of foster children [in England] are placed through private commercial foster care agencies.
  • Almost 20% of children’s social workers working in local authorities are short-term temporary social workers employed through for-profit employment agencies.

This all generates a poorer riskier service at a higher cost.

c)   Similarly for adult social services require assessments to protect vulnerable adults and mental capacity assessments to be undertaken by public authorities and not non-public companies. 

d) Re-fund and re-build community services for families with children under five (Sure Start) and youth provision.

e) Support university-based initial qualifying education for social workers and cease skewed funding for programmes generating too early specialisation and fore-shortened training and education. 

 f) Require Social Work England and the other UK social work regulators to develop – in partnership with social work employers and social work education providers – programmes of post/qualifying training and education and PQ qualifications, noting that retention and career development is at least as important as social worker recruitment if stable and experienced workforces are to be created.

6  Emma Lewell-Buck MP  and Lord Mike Watson opened the discussion from the perspective of Labour MPs and Peers work is occurring on these areas.  Labour is committed to campaigning for resources to be put back into adult and children social care services and strengthening local government. M W reported that Labour plans to address Early Help policy in the coming year. Also  focussing on Adult Social Care policy in the coming year as Govt Green Paper expected  (Update note to members  House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee)  has just produced a consultation document on this:

There followed a discussion on this and other key issues that the LSWG wishes to bring to the attention of Labour MPs and Labour councillors. Key points:

  • Discussion on arguments advanced by government to detach statutory children services from local authorities. A key point made by attenders was that neither expense nor quality arguments stand up to close scrutiny. The ideological nature of the changes was discussed.
  • Discussion on the need to bring back theoretical understandings of environmental deprivation including the importance of bringing the voices of children and vulnerable adults into strategic thinking.

The following  national and local concerns were raised in the discussion:

  • The lack of enough good quality children’s homes to meet need and the unresolved issue of education and training for residential child care workers
  • The rise in unregulated provision for teenagers in care or edge of care
  • Access to Education being denied to children in care but also those on the edge of care, and especially those with special Educational needs
  • It was noted that an average of three to five plus moves of carer per year was experienced by older children in care
  • Insecurity of the provision both for community services and for residential providers (adult and children’s services)- many providers are unsure if they will be there in 2 years. Need for Labour to go back to a grant system to Vol Orgs and away from tendering which gets in the way of continuity of relationships
  • An absence in the workforce of the skills for social workers and professional colleagues working with the most vulnerable children and their families: Importance for Labour to have a 5 year plan to address this.
  • Attention was drawn to the ‘Reclaim Social Care’ Google Group which is working to encourage a Labour strategy for adult social care. Links have been established between LSWG and Gordon Peters re their campaign to influence  Labour Manifesto on social care
  • There was a feeling that the terms ‘Social Work’ has become associated only with Local Authority statutory social work and the more prevalent term in adult services ‘Social care’ could lead to a false distinction about the skills required when dealing with vulnerability and complex dynamics.
  • There was discussion on the tendency for direct work with children and adults to be seen as a role for unqualified support workers.
  • the implication of separating out Adults and Children’s social work was discussed (creating a focus on the individual rather than seeing people needing help within families and communities. Information systems which focuss on individual records has a role in this.
  • An over-arching concern expressed was that apart from a small number of knowledgeable and vocal Labour MPs (E L-B and MW being exceptions) there is a lack of vision within Labour of what Social Work stands for and its central position in the provision of services for vulnrable adults and children..
  • There was discussion of qualifying and post-qualifying social work education. Those present expressed support for the position taken by LSWG to date re concerns about expansion of Frontline fast-track resulting in;  inequality of support for students following HEI courses and undue emphasis on child and family social work (risking ‘squeezing out’ training for adult social work). Group should continue to support Labour Party line in last Manifesto to support all University routes into social work and not single out Frontline (as it had done in earlier manifestos).  And ask Labour Shadow education team to support better funding for social work students and social work courses and a fairer distribution of funds between the different training routes.
  • Jill Archer of UNISON led the discussion of concerns about how the new national accreditation system (NAAS) links to retention and performance. E L-B gave a response to a PQ – the initial stage of NAAS was £30m. Concerns raised by attenders were: NAAS is overly focussed on identifying ‘bad’ social workers and not focusing on development and learning in the role; overly focussed on narrowly defined Child Protection rather than child and family social work more broadly (eg community social work, foster care and adoption; potentially undermines local authority social work service as could lead to more experienced social workers leaving rather than ’taking the test);  in summary, generally flawed thinking that has resulted from this set of DfE policies.
  • The view was expressed that incentives provided by the DFE are felt to be affecting the overall evaluation where evaluators (including HEI-based researchers) are tied in by their funding needs to presenting success. BASW is also bidding for some grants to provide learning for those taking the NAAS tests. Some Universities are also believed to be involved. Risk of narrowing qualifying, ASYE and PQ learning- ‘teaching to the test’.
  • The effect of the emphasis of policy attention and also government resources on child protection social work on palliative care social work was discussed- the narrowly-focused accreditation process is marginalising the role of the social worker taking a more wholistic role. This re-defines the profession in a way that is not helpful.
  • General discussion about the trend to divide social workers into ‘supervisors’ and ‘support’ (unqualified) roles- An attender who has worked in both countries commented that this trend has also been seen in the Netherlands. This was felt to link to the wider construction of social problems as individual and social work as policing, taking the analysis out of the role.

7       Thanks were given to June for her work in the role of founding chair of LSWG.












Chair’s Newsletter February 2019

Labour Social Work Group 

Chair’s Newsletter February 2019

I’m finding it difficult to write this, partly because of the tensions, stresses and strains within the Labour party – with Brexit and other issues as well – and being aware that there will be differences amongst us a LSWG members as there are for Labour Party members and supporters as whole.

But also because in one sense Brexit is taking over much time and energy but at the same time a lot is happening on the policy and practice level. And although we are linked to the Labour Party as a ‘Member-led group’ some of our members and supporters are ‘left-leaning’ but not Labour Party member.s


It has just not seemed the right time to approach MPs about social work issues though there have been some brilliant- and moving speeches in recent debates on the cumulative impact of the year on year cuts to adults and children’s services.

* I was particularly moved by some powerful speeches in the debate on 17 January (look it up in Hansard or Parliament TV) on Children’s Social Care and the funding crisis.

Emma Lewell-Buck incisively demolished the DfE Minister’s argument that ‘Innovations Funds’ and ‘Partners in Practice’ were making up for the funding inadequacies, and Lyn Brown– movingly drew attention to the impact on parents and children of housing stress and homelessness. Other Labour MPs who intervened powerfully were Laura Smith, Mohammad Yasin and Luke Pollard.  If any of these are your constituency MPs- do make a point of thanking them and let me know so I can do so from LSWG.

Luke Pollard by the way is the new Chair of the APPG on Social Work  Maddie Jennings – BASW Parliamentary Officer liaises with him. Just before Christmas I spoke at a meeting in Westminster of the APPG on Social Work on the negative impact of ‘outsourcing’ of children’s services and the rapid increase in social workers now working for private for-profit agencies.


* This deficit in funding for Children’s services has also been the subject of a NAO report and Hearing by the Audit Committee.  Labour Chair Meg Hillier posed some incisive questions to the Permanent Secretary ad DfE and the Chief Social Worker.  The usual vague and un-persuasive responses from them –  Problem- what problem?  Don’t you know that Innovations and Partners for Practice are sorting it?  Happily, Meg Hillier and Labour colleagues seemed unconvinced and continued to probe.

* The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee issued a consultation document on funding of children’s services just before Christmas.  I made a short submission but more substantial was the evidence of Ray Jones, who spoke powerfully to his submission- mainly about the damage being done to quality and the scandalous waste of already pitifully inadequate funding on private-for profit agencies. Others at the hearings made powerful arguments on the same point.  Well worth looking up.  11 Feb


See also the Committee hearing when Stuart Gallimore of ADCS and Ruth Allen of BASW gave evidence to the committee.  Several members of LSWG contributed to BASW’s written submission

The contributors to these sessions have been in broad agreement. Gravely  Inadequate resources from central govt to local authorities.  Some form of ring fencing may be needed for children’s services as a whole, with local government decision making but making sure there is sufficient for early help as well as those who need a protection or in care service. SOMETHING must be done re tendering processes and huge profits being made by large venture capital run private providers.  Mixed economy neded but with local authorities having their own services as part of the mix to make them less dependent on private providers.

*All giving evidence have commented on the inadequacy of an approach that emphasises tendering for short term ‘innovations’ funding.  It was stated that 11 authorities have received 50% of this funding.  What about the remaining 140?

* Ruth Allen made the interesting point that LAs should move back to grant funding of the voluntary sector agencies to allow for more creativity and local partnership working

* The question of increased funding with respect to families caught for months and years the ‘no recourse to public funds’ position was also mentioned.

More sessions of the inquiry to come this month.

And I don’t use this space for advertising publications but make an exception for Ray Jones’ recently published book  ‘In Whose Interest. The Privatisation of Child Protection and Social Work . Policy Press   Although focussing on child and family social work it has important messages about out-sourcing across client and needs groups

Three other issues made me get my act together:

Social care and moves towards integration of health and social care


Firstly, I wanted to alert LSWG members to a proposed resolution on social care being proposed for Labour Conference and inclusion within the next Labour Party Manifesto.  It is being worked on by groups with similar agendas to ours including Centre for Welfare Reform, Reclaim Social Care, Socialist Health Association. Some of those involved are also LSWG members.  There has been a likely email discussion and the details may have changed but I would like to have any comments from members as to whether you think LSWG should support it.  So much of the discussion about ‘Integrating Health and Social Care’ has been focused on the ‘frail elderly’ and has really been about care and not social care, and with almost no mention of social work.  But this is inclusive of ‘adults of working age’ who need a social work and social care service. Much of the debate is around the role of local government.  Personally, I have been glad that Andrew Gwynn as the Shadow Communities and Local Government Minister has been a strong advocate of strengthening Local Government and proper financing of adults and Children’s social services.

The last version I saw of the proposed conference motion is below but it may have changed.

Social Care and Support (model Labour Party Resolution)


England’s social care system is broken. Local Authorities face £700m cuts in 2018-19. With £7 billion slashed since 2010, 26% fewer older people receive support, while demand grows.


Most care is privatised, doesn’t reflect users’ needs and wishes, whilst charges increase.


Consequences include isolation, indignity, maltreatment. Disabled and elderly people face barriers to inclusion and independent living, thousands feel neglected. 8 million unpaid, overworked family carers, including children and elderly relatives, provide vital support.


Public money goes to shareholders and hedgefunds as profits. Service users and families face instability as companies go bust overnight.


Staff wages, training and conditions are pared to the bone. Staff turnover is over 30%.


Conference demands Labour places a duty on SoS deliver comprehensive social care and support:

  • Free at the point of use
  • Fully funded through progressive taxation
  • Subject to national standards ensured by local authorities
  • Publicly provided through local authorities and the NHS in partnership
  • Locally democratic and designed by service users and carers in partnership with local authorities and the NHS, delivered as far as possible by service users.
  • Addressing aims, aspirations and choices of all users
  • Providing staff with training, qualifications, career structure, decent pay and conditions
  • Giving informal carers the rights and support they need.


Labour to set up a taskforce to develop a universal care and support service working with user groups, in collaboration with a national independent living service and available to all on basis of need, based on article 19 of the UNCRPD.


246 words


  • Social Work England


The consultation closes 1 May.  Hopefully members of LWG will be commenting via other groupings.  I think it best to make our views known in ways not specifically associated with political parties, but LSWG has continuing links with the H of Lords and Commons Labour politicians so  I would be interested in any views people have.

Our friends in Parliament are always happy to ask PQs on this and other issues




3   Related to the above:    Frontline


I know LSWG members have been vocal on twitter and using other avenues to protest about the £45 to be handed over to Frontline.  BASW and APSW and JSWEC are pressing for an ‘open book’ consultation with DfE and DH on how to appropriately allocate whatever funding is available for social work initial training and also post qualifying.  (eg how come (as per some tweeting) DfE funding goes to Frontline to provide CPD opportunities to  ‘Frontline Fellows’ when funds for HEI based PQ modules are so hard to come by.

It was to say the least unhelpful, (as LSWG tweeters will have noted), that Frontline’s twitter feed announced that Angela Rayner (Labour’s Shadow Education cabinet member) was (following on from an effusive statement from the Children’s Minister) quoted as saying that she is a strong supporter of social work but also that she congratulated Frontline on its achievements.  I’m not sure how that happened as (thanks to Emma Lewell-Buck’s intervention)  the 2017  Labour Manifesto removed the 2015 Manifesto statement  that Labour supported Frontline and changed it to support for ALL HEI-based social work education. Since Frontline is now directly providing the training and is NOT a University- one could argue that it is not included in the above.

And it has just been announced that Frontline trainees are no longer required to complete the Master’s component, further weakening its credibility as a quality PG education and training for social workers. And it is still not recognised as such outside England.

Emma Lewell-Buck has been asking some PQs about this and getting the usual stone-walling and obfuscating answers

Eg   Emma Lewell-Buck: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 7 February 2019 to Question 216290 on Frontline, how much money has been repaid by participants to (a) Frontline and (b) his Department.

We await reliable information on Frontline retention rates.  The volume of anecdotal information on dissatisfaction with the training, from staff as well as former trainees is growing.  GET IN TOUCH IF YOU CAN ADD TO IT. 

  1. National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS)

Things have gone quiet on this. No mention from what I picked up on on the wasteful use of limited resources on NAAS.  From Parliamentary answers

The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies.

Jane Tunstill and I had a useful conversation with Gill Archer who has replaced Matthew Egan at the children’s services UNISON   ‘desk’

I’ve put  the UNISON motion that was passed in 2017 at end of this Newsletter.   But we would really appreciate any info you can give us on NAAS in your area-  both if you are part of the Pilot and also if your agency is pressing staff to become part of it.



Firstly,  I have less energy than I used to have   would really appreciate offers from LSWG members for getting more involved, at national and/or local level.  I have lists of members in the dfferent areas.

AND I’D REALLY APPRECIATE contact from anyone who might consider taking over as CHAIR.  Not onerous- depends on how much the Chair is able to commit to it  (not a lot from me over last 12 months)

Agenda for next year

Keeping up with what is going on in Parliament and local government


Our group started in 2015 because of the very poor references to social work in the Manifesto of that year

We should start work now if we want to influence the next Manifesto. 

Already starting with the above on Adult Social Work and Social Care


BUT what will we want in there re Child and Family Social Work and community services

AND social work education








Composite A (Motions 10 and 11) – “Say No” to National Assessment and Accreditation



The Conservative government is planning to introduce an accreditation system for children and family social workers which will undoubtedly put already stretched social workers under even more pressure to meet rising demands on services that protect Children and Young People (CYP).


Conference notes: The government has spent £3.66 million in consulting on and preparing for the introduction of the National Assessment and Accreditation System for children and family social workers.

The government has allocated for phase 1 and phase 2 of the National Accreditation and Assessment System: £2.7 million for the preparation of local authorities and social workers; and £4.86 million for the introduction, operational delivery and evaluation of the assessment.

This total is split £2.7 million for local authorities and £8.52 million for private companies



  • Children’s services are in financial crisis. According to report in Guardian on 8 Aug 2017 councils warn that children’s services are £600m in the red. Social workers have high workloads with increasing referrals;
  • A recent Local Government Association (12/01/18) survey found that a child or young person was referred to CYP services every 49 seconds whilst social workers struggle to cope with unprecedented caseload demands resulting in increased stress and anxiety amongst staff;
  • Branches across the regions are representing record numbers of social workers in disciplinary procedures or in ill health procedures as a direct result of workload pressures and difficulties with wellbeing resulting from stress and associated workplace problems;
  • Social work with children and families urgently needs investment. But instead of putting the services children and families need in place, the government’s response has been to recommend unnecessary tests for social workers in England at a high financial cost;
  • Social workers have overwhelmingly voiced opposition to the National Assessment and Accreditation System (NAAS) in a UNISON survey; Heather Wakefield, UNISON’s head of local government’s comments about the NAAS:“This ill thought out scheme threatens to make things worse, not better. It doesn’t accurately assess the work staff do, and could prove to be the final straw for many experienced employees, who may vote with their feet and leave;”
  • The government has already significantly reduced the roll out of NAAS following opposition from council leaders, social work managers, social workers and UNISON.


Conference believes:


  1. The National Assessment and Accreditation System will have a detrimental effect on social workers who have already high case-loads and will lead to individual social workers getting blamed more frequently rather than for lack of service provision due to austerity.
  2. It is a national scandal that this government awarded, in February 2018, a contract to an international consultancy firm and that the cost of this contract for social work accreditation is £3.6 million. Mott Macdonald, a construction company, will develop and roll out the scheme across the pilot authorities.
  3. The previous pilot projects were all criticised by all social work organisations. The scheme up to now is shown to be unworkable. Previous pilot projects showed that there was an in built discrimination against older and ethnic minority social workers.
  4. That investment in social work development is welcomed but should be planned in line with the views of experienced social workers;
  5. That social work development should be part of an ongoing accreditation system that results in recognised qualifications/developmental awards rather than a potentially punitive exercise and that developmental activity should be rewarded with pay progression;
  6. That the Tory government should be focusing resources to local communities and preventative services that have been viciously cut such as children’s centres. This will provide for much better outcomes for children and young people;
  7. That there is a crisis in our social work system, caused by developments like these along with continued austerity. Social workers are continually faced with excessive workloads, reductions in qualified staffing, and cuts in training and professional development;
  8. That social work assessment and accreditation should not be developed by private organisations such as Mott MacDonald or Deloitte rather by organisations dedicated to the profession such as BASW and the Social Work Action Network with close consultation with trade unions that represent social workers in the workplace.

Conference is concerned that £2 million has already been spent with contracts awarded to KPMG and Morning Lane, the company which was co-founded by the chief social worker. The collapse of Carillion and no evidence that private sector provides better outcomes for children means that social work accreditation should not be privatised.


Furthermore, this conference believes we should question whether there is a conflict of interest when a contract is awarded to a company the chief social worker has had involvement with.


The Association of Directors for Children’s Services had previously estimated a full national roll out of accreditation would cost £23 million.


Conference asks the local government service group executive to:


  1. Oppose the introduction of NAAS at national and local level;
  2. Organise a campaign amongst the local authorities UNISON branches involved in the first and second phases;
  • Organise forums of members directly affected seeking the support of other social work organisations.
  1. Use all avenues to explore why is so much money going to private companies not related to social work when the money could be going to front line services;
  2. Re-state social work best practice is best monitored through supervision and local authority procedures. Local authorities understand the local needs within their population;
  3. Challenge the DfE to introduce targets for restricted caseloads and regular reflective supervision which social workers, judges, academics and others have identified in numerous research documents, legal judgements and serious case reviews this is evidenced as supporting social workers to assess and manage risk and effectively support children and young people. It is also crucial to the development of social workers.