I’ve just come back from a short holiday to find that the dust is still settling after David Cameron’s ‘smarter state’ speech in which he dropped all sorts of dark hints about what may happen to children’s social work and child protection.
The truth of the matter is that what is most wrong with all of this is not necessarily particular proposals – such as privatisation – but rather the whole approach of some small group top of politicians and ‘experts’ working out what is best and then threatening to impose it top-down. That way of thinking is no better than the last Labour government’s ill-fated Every Child Matters approach which was thought up by groups of people who knew more about spin-doctoring than protecting children. And it will fail for the same reasons. If you don’t have a clear idea about what happens and how it goes wrong, you will never put it right.
A small group of people whose members have never worked in the field and never engaged with vulnerable children and young people has only a very limited grasp of what happens and why. They quickly come-up with half-baked myths about what is wrong, to which they propose half-baked solutions.
Privatisation has all the hallmarks of one such dumb policy. It seems to be based on the idea that bringing in organisations that have very limited experience and a completely untried approach to doing the work will result in it being done better. That’s a bit like saying that a struggling motor manufacturer should bring in a team of dentists to solve its technical problems.
Making matters better starts and ends at the coalface. Unless those who actually do this very complicated and varied work are tasked with thinking about how to do it better, and empowered to make improvements, nothing will ever change. Somebody will just come in with the rubber stamp marked privatisation and in a couple of years we will all be back at square one (albeit a privatised square-one!)