Pro-active approach to children services required

Think tank Demos has argued that councils should adopt a ‘pro-active approach’ to the outsourcing of children’s services, rather than using it to respond to budget cuts or service failure.

The failings of children’s services, highlighted in recent Ofsted reports, have profound impacts on the lives of children and young people. While demand for children’s services is rising, and budgets shrinking, the group argues that while local authorities are undoubtedly being asked to do more with less, outsourcing should not be the automatic response.

When used correctly outsourcing has the potential to help local authorities deal with the pressures they face, drive up standards, and ultimately secure better outcomes for vulnerable children and young people.

However, Demos claims that too many local authorities are waiting until they reach breaking point before exploring new ways of delivering services. It argued this fails to achieve value for money and could reduce the outcomes of vulnerable young people.

Simone Vibert, author of the report and researcher for Demos, said: “When supporting some of the most vulnerable children in society, it's vital local authorities deliver the best services possible. Commissioning services from a varied range of providers can achieve this - but only when done strategically and under the right circumstances. Commissioning is an art, not a science, and local authorities need guidance and support to do it well.”