A report from the Local Government Association has raised serious concerns over the financial stability of around 60% of England’s largest foster care services and children’s homes.
The LGA represents councils across England and Wales and found that 6 out of 10 of the biggest providers have ‘more debts and liabilities than tangible assets.’
They are now calling for greater insight into companies that provide homes for children in care. They have used the collapse of adult care giant Southern Cross as an example of what can go wrong if there isn’t a strict monitoring process in place and they have argued that there is a duty of care to monitor the finances of the ‘most difficult to replace’ children’s services.
30 years ago, the majority of children’s homes were in the public sector but now 80% are in the private or voluntary sector. With the cost of care at an all-time high, some councils are having to reopen children’s homes to cope with demand as reports emerge of children being placed into care facilities that are several hours from their home and means they have to be removed from their school and familiar surroundings.
Children in these situations need as much stability as possible and this report brings that into question.
For Alison Alexander, CEO of Cornerstone Partnership, part of Antser Group, the news is frustrating. As a former Director of Children’s Services and Chief Executive Officer of a local authority, she is all too aware of the quandary that many children’s services face:
‘We spent large sums buying residential placements for our children in care – the costs were usually high and there was insufficient resource to invest in local homes for children. As a DCS I was passionate that we could work differently in delivering children’s services. It was time to stop thinking that only local councils could deliver services and start forming partnerships with the private and voluntary sector to solve problems and meet children’s needs.
‘Up until now, the choices were limited and neither met the needs of children – either bring in a consultant at great cost or outsource and be at the mercy of the supply/demand economics.
‘It is for this reason I joined Antser. I shared their commitment and passion for working in partnership, utilising technology to solve problems with local councils. Antser can offer a third way by enabling local authorities to transform their services through building internal capacity with an external partner and providing expertise, analysis and front-line service support, for as long as necessary to embed change.
‘We must also harness the power of technology and embrace its ability to enable us to do more with less. Our use of ground-breaking tools, such as virtual reality, are proving to be a gamechanger in social care and predictive analytics can help us to work much smarter, targeting resources.
‘So, I’d like to reach out to colleagues across the UK to say that I understand the challenges only too well and we are always open to working with any local authority willing to innovate and drive through real transformation.’