Mark Raeburn: 4.5 minute read

Children's social care crisis continues, with top watchdog considering an investigation

Frontline chief executive Josh MacAlister – appointed by the government this month to head an independent review into children’s social care – revealed on Twitter yesterday that he had written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), calling on it to carry out a study into the social care market.
Competition watchdog mulling probe into children’s social care market, Community

With the COVID-19 crisis ongoing, will this investigation, pushed forward by the government simply be a sticking plaster? Is it something that will produce results and the change which we all yearn for, or simply be another report that ends up on someone's desk, to be lost under a pile of other pressing reports?

Any investigation needs to focus on the common issues which have continued to emerge over the last few years:

  1. The continued growth in the private provision of placements for children in care
  2. Increasing concentration in the fostering market, with two companies responsible for 35% of placements in 2019
  3. Above-inflationary increases in the costs of private provision
  4. Private equity ownership of providers
  5. Whether providers have the power to set prices
  6. The growing use of unregulated or unregistered placements.

What is presented within these issues is a system which is under strain and is desperate to survive. We all know that when people get desperate, mistakes are made and decisions are undertaken too quickly without the ramifications being thought through.

How did we get to this point?

The pessimists out there could say the Conservative Government, but would this be fair to say?

Back at the 2019 general election, the party appeared to be the least generous when it came to social care, and two years later, nothing has changed.

'The Conservatives appear to be the least generous, with their promised funding shared between children’s and adults’ social care – but it might be that more detail about the full package of funding will appear in the manifesto itself, as the amount promised so far is not enough to meet the rising demand for care while maintaining the current quality and accessibility of current services.'
Back in the ‘too difficult’ box: social care and the manifestos, The King's Fund

Additional funding has been released this month for Adult Social Care, but it is a similar story to that which is presented here. It is not enough, any stimulus is merely buying time and whilst the Prime Minister promised this year that he would bring forward plans to solve the social care crisis, very few people believe that this will happen.

The Prime Minister promised on his first day in office that he would solve the problems associated with social care, but nothing has yet to materialise from this.

‘Appearing before the House of Commons Liaison Committee on 13 January, Boris Johnson said: “The pandemic has highlighted the difficulties that the social care sector is in - it clearly needs reform and it needs improvement.

'We will be bringing forward plans later this year'
Boris Johnson promises social care reform this year as care homes call for action,

The fingers are easy to point but what is the answer?

What is the answer?

The questions can wait but these children cannot. Everyone who is attached to health and social care can point out the holes in the system. The lack of care provision and increasing costs helps no-one, other than the private equity firms who are squeezing the state to maximise profit for their back pockets.

'a study by Revolution Consulting study showing independent children’s home placements had grown at a cost of 6% a year from 2012-13 to 2019-10.'
Competition watchdog mulling probe into children’s social care market,

Facts like this help us all to consider why this has happened, but this is not what is important. What is of utter urgency is the need to solve the situation and place children first. What is becoming clear is that the United Kingdom needs a new identity outside of Europe, like that which companies regularly complete through re-branding.

How do we change our image? That is another question which can be pondered, but the question in which we should be asking is, 'How can we change anything whilst those who are vulnerable remain on the sidelines?' How we treat those who are vulnerable speaks volumes about who we are, and maybe we should begin to think less of care provision as a market exercise.

What do we believe?

OLM was set up nearly 30 years ago with the sole purpose of making a difference to everyone working within health and social care, through dedicated software and services. We have evolved with the times and believe that by aligning processes with the latest software you can deliver care to more.

Children in care are vulnerable. We need to get them to where they are going quicker, which is where technology comes into play, but if we are simply fast-tracking them to an 'overpriced placement', then are we really helping?

In the short term, yes, children need stability and the sooner they get it, the better. Every child deserves the right to grow up in a supportive household in order to be the best version of themselves possible.

We believe that an investigation should take place into health and social care as a whole. We need a plan that unites the two in order to get everyone from crisis into the best possible environment as soon as possible. Technology can aid this process, but until we look at care as a whole, from top to bottom, we will continue to hear stories such as this.

Make no mistake, the system is broken, being propped up by those continuing to wonder if a change will ever happen?

A Final Thought

We believe profit does not go hand in hand with care, the focus needs to be the people being helped and not the profit generated. At OLM, we view money is just the fuel for our vehicle that is taking us on our journey. Profit is not the endpoint for us. For 30 years we have existed to make a positive difference to people's lives and we have continued to reinvest our profits back into our solutions to increase our impact. 

Private equity investment is about driving more profit and value out of a resource. This focus on money can make for the wrong decisions for the social care sector, one that minimises investment and look to maximise profit. Charities, care providers, health care workers, those who work in care and this case, child placements want to make a difference. They want to change lives and have access to the best support possible for the Children they support.

The proposed investigation into placements for children in care is something that we support. We need a long term plan around social care, change is needed and will happen. The system needs more funding and Local Authorities need choice and control.  It is essential that extra money is used to deliver the best services rather used as additional profits for private equity firms due to lack of alternatives.

We believe in placing those that need support first. An investigation needs to take place, and a sustainable marketplace supported where everyone is focused on the same goals (the best care for the Children).