Monday, 2 November 2015

2025 – an outsourcing odyssey

Let’s wind forward 10 years to 2025.

A children’s charity called ProtectOutsourceOrg* has just gone into liquidation. Commentators in the press are pointing to the similarities to the Kids Company debacle, ten years previously in 2015. It seems that for years there have been concerns about ProtectOutsourceOrg, but little or no action has been taken and the government has continued to fund it. Various people are now coming out of the woodwork to say that they have been telling people for years that it would all end in tears, just as happened with Kids Company.

There is one big difference, however, between the fictional ProtectOutsourceOrg and Kids Company. Whereas Kids Company provided children's services which were essentially preventative, ProtectOutsourceOrg was one of the charities which had secured a contract to provide child protection services, as part of the British government’s outsourcing initiative. On the day it went bankrupt hundreds of Section 47 enquiries were in progress and tens of care proceedings were before the courts. Hundreds of children subject to child protection plans were depending on social workers employed by ProtectOutsourceOrg to safeguard them from abuse and neglect.

On the day ProtectOutsourceOrg went bottom-up a lot of children became much more at risk of significant harm.

Is this just future fantasy fiction (or social science fiction, if you like)? After all, ProtectOutsourceOrg doesn’t really exist; it is just a creation of an eccentric blogger’s imagination.

Fiction it may be, but it is pretty credible fiction in my view: a realistic prediction of what could happen. If three successive governments could sit on the developing Kids Company debacle as various ministers and civil servants agonised and felt concerned, but continued to write cheques, then surely the same thing could happen in the future when a similar sort of organisation has been trusted with similar, but even more safety critical, responsibilities.

Nobody should want to wait until a “ProtectOutsourceOrg” debacle actually happens, because it can be avoided NOW – simply by revisiting the government’s child protection outsourcing strategy and recognising that it has enormous and unacceptable risks.

* No such organisation as ProtectOutsourceOrg exists – at least I hope it doesn’t. Several Google searches have failed to find an organisation with such an ungainly name. Some early versions of this post had sweeter sounding and more plausible names, but I found that Google searches for them did not produce null results. Not wanting to liable anybody I thought up this weird name.