Before the care review steps into the battlefield of vested interest that exists between practitioners, services and sectors, it first needs to look closely at the environmental impact of government policy on social care. In my opinion, it will look much like the impact of supermarkets on the high street, globalisation on local economies and climate warming on the planet.
Two decades ago, legislation was introduced to create a level playing field for all providers of social care services across all vulnerable groups. With this came independent regulation intended to protect the public and soon after, the arrival of Ofsted claiming to be a force for improvement willing to inspect without fear or favour. That has not been my experience and in my opinion this legislation has passed its sell by date and so has the fear led approach to regulation that arrived with it.
This is evident in the increasing monopolisation of the ‘market’ now reminiscent of so much that is bad about the power of money and privilege over vulnerability. That is not to say that I think all business is bad because I don’t. My thinking is more to do with who holds the power and what safeguards there are in place to prevent the potential for that power to be misused.
It is in my view time to lift the shroud of secrecy that allows Ofsted to hide truth behind untested freedom of information exemptions and the willingness of the powers that be too collude with this. It cannot be right that in the year this legislation came of age that qualified and experienced caregivers are being expelled from the children’s workforce, that children are moved from placement to placement because providers fear a bad Ofsted rating and more time is now spent in an office playing a ‘prove it’ game on paper than is spent actually caring for the children and young people.
Or, that beyond my immediate professional habitat, there are media led scandals that fill the public with dread whilst the number of children coming into care is increasing. That in lockdown alone Ofsted have registered 177 new children’s homes when they know there is a national shortage of managers, they are ejecting suitable applicants and registering others with a dubious track record, and many of these providers are completely new to the world of children’s social care.
That I witness the aftermath of care in the number of young people living in substandard accommodation and the willingness of local authorities to place them there, the number of children removed from care experienced mothers who have been left without support, the number of adopted children returned to care in their teenage years by parents who can’t cope and above all the number of children condemned to a life without love and the visible consequences of this in psychiatric hospitals, prisons and graveyards.
This care review will not even scratch the surface of what needs to be done until the mist clears and the environmental causes of this are understood and tackled with the same priority that is attributed to other threats to society and the planet.
Amanda Knowles MBE