Monthly Archives: May 2014

Re-think on outsourcing: Mr Gove, privatisation and the ‘missing shade of blue’ …..

Academics and experts have expressed their concerns in a letter to the Guardian following the Department of Educations announcement that it is considering outsourcing children’s services to private firms.

Professor Eileen Munro rightly highlights the ‘fickleness and failings’ of the market, suggesting caution in establishing a market in child protection which could create perverse incentives for private companies. A recent headline highlights the less savoury side of outsourcing – ‘Now troubled children are an investment opportunity: 18% return on the most disturbed and needy children in care homes is the extreme end of Britain’s outsourcing culture’ (Polly Toynbee)

A poll in the Guardian found 95% of respondents felt private firms should not be allowed to run children’s services.

However, the outsourcing/privatisation of children’s services is already here, and it’s extension into child protection is the next target for this government.

The letter has achieved its’ purpose in highlighting the issue and stimulating debate, the question is where do we go from here? I agree with my learned peers, we have to move beyond the ‘outsourcing’ of child protection and focus on our primary concern that vulnerable children will be exploited for profit, not unlike the vulnerable patients of Winterbourne View Hospital. A hospital set up by a Swiss equity company who primarily saw it as an investment opportunity and when the abuse of its’ patients was exposed promptly closed it down, probably moving onto the next investment opportunity provided by this government in the outsourcing of services.

Sadly government chooses to ignore this aspect of outsourcing. However, they do not ignore the opportunity to expose the failure of ‘social workers’ whenever possible. Although, they are less than explicit about the serious structural issues that prevent social workers delivering good services. The Munro Review provided a blue print for change which was universally accepted, however, it has been quietly watered down by the present government, a massive mistake in my opinion, but not unexpected as it really does not fit their ideological agenda and the dichotomous thinking of Mr Gove and co i.e. public sector bad, private sector good.

The issue is not about ‘outsourcing’, it is about the principles, values and ethics of those we outsource to. It is really about profit being made from the lives of those most vulnerable in society which feels abhorrent. Personally I feel the time is right to abandon the notion there is only one way of constructing the world of safeguarding, whether child or adult, if we are to move forward in this debate.

In a famous passage in his Treatise of Human Nature the political philosopher Hume writes about ‘the missing shade of blue’. According to Hume, if we are shown samples of two different shades of blue we can conjure up in our minds a third shade that fits between the two: the missing shade of blue.

The point of interest in Hume’s writing is not that we can invent a new shade of blue but that we can invent new ideas which connect to existing ideas.

Those working daily on the frontline of child protection I feel sure are more than able to achieve this, however, I have little faith, or trust, in those in government to move beyond their preferred shade of Tory blue.

Di Galpin

In January (2014)I wrote a blog regarding the setting of thethreshold for the ‘duty of candour’ suggesting Mr Hunt had ignored advice from David Behan onthe inclusion of’moderate harm’. Since writing the Department of Health Media Centrecontacted me, via Twitter, to tell me Mr Hunt had not, as I suggested,ignored David Behan. After several requests to the media centre for further clarification they have now sent me a link to a document published in March this yearentitled ‘Introducing the StatutoryDuty of Candour: Aconsultation on proposals to introduce a new CQC registration regulation’.

I think this was supposed to clarify the issue for me, instead it has left me somewhat perplexed. It appears health and social care will be using different thresholds.

For Healthcare

In the regulations, the harm threshold for healthcare is set at the threshold recommended by Dalton/Williams to include ‘moderate’ harm. This means that all harm that is…

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Zero-hour contacts: A return to the 19th century ……….

I read a review of a new book by Rachel Holmes which explores the life of Eleanor Marx at the weekend. It was interesting to read about  her role in various strikes. I was struck  by how the issues workers faced over a century ago have reappeared to haunt some in work today.  Men used to stand at the dock gate waiting for a few hours work to be handed out by employers on a daily basis.  Sometimes they might find 3 hours work, on another day 10 hours, and the next  day nothing.  Such insecurity left many in dire poverty with no hope of a secure future.  The introduction of contracts which guarantee steady work, and a regular income, has had such a positive impact on all our lives ,  many of us take them for granted.  However, as I drove into work this morning listening to the news, the fragility  of the  hard won workers rights many have fought for over centuries came into sharp focus as talk of ‘zero -hour’ contracts filled the airwaves.

To provide some kind of rationale for the use of this morale sapping innitiative (I use the word ‘innitiative’ loosely here) they are justified by linking them to those on benefits, one headline reading ‘Benefits risk to job seekers refusing zero-hours contracts’, which is sure to perk up the average Daily Mail and Express reader  this morning.

However, the truth is zero-hours contracts are already widely in use.  The Office of National Statistics suggest big companies in the UK use a total of 1.4 million zero-hour contracts (one of my younger family members has one). The reality of the increase in use of zero- hour contracts is that many peoples’ lives are blighted by terrible insecurity, not knowing how much they will earn from week to week. The care industry in particular regularly use such contracts

Imagine living day to day, week to week, month to month, not knowing how much you might earn?  Imagine the stress of not knowing if you will be able to afford the essentials of life; food, warmth shelter.

Supporters suggest they are a good thing,  giving workers flexibility, which might be true if you are in a profession that has high earning potential and where you can afford to put some money aside for a rainy day. However, these contracts are usually used in low paid industries, like the care sector, where every day feels like a rainy day, where employment is often insecure due to government cuts in the public sector. So its’ a double ‘whammy’ for these employees, not only are they in a low paid job their future will be determined by factors beyond their control. 

I would suggest, the security of a regular income outstrips the flexibility a zero-hours contract might bring.

We are developing our economy on individuals insecurity, which will ultimatley increase the inequalities that already exist, this is a very sad state of affairs.