In March 2014 the Department for Education (DfE) commissioned a report into children’s social care services. Seen at the time of its commissioning as a likely blueprint for privatising local authority children’s services, the report was actually completed in September 2014.
The charity and publication Children and Young People Now requested a copy in November 2015. Five months later, despite a significant Freedom of Information battle, the DfE still refuses to publish it.
Intervention by the Information Commissioner’s Office to try to force publication of the report in the public interest had an odd response: yes the report is in the public interest, but no, it cannot be released because the DfE intends publishing it at a future date.
After the referendum?
The DfE intends to publish it when it fits with government schedules, which probably means after the EU referendum. If the report is, as suspected, a privatisation blueprint, the aim could be to delay more bad publicity for the government.
Meanwhile the attack on children’s social care continues. Ofsted inspections are resulting in “inadequate” status reports, followed by the DfE appointing external commissioners with a remit to find alternatives to local authority control. At the same time, central government cuts are forcing local authorities to slash budgets.
Twenty-four local authorities have had their children’s social care services put into commissioners’ hands since 2013. The more such services are removed from local government control, the louder the government will clamour that privatisation is the only solution.
The return of Dickensian conditions for children is on the horizon.