Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Is Leicestershire right to be proud it has no children's homes?

You can read the opening statement made on behalf of Leicestershire County Council to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse strand on Lord Janner on the IICSA website.

That is remarkable in itself, as the great majority of the proceedings in this strand have taken place in private.

If you do read it you will find that Alex Verdan QC listed this among the "key points" he asked the inquiry to note:

there are no longer any LCC-run care homes in Leicestershire. The last home closed in April 2018. The small number of residential placements are sourced through external providers after a rigorous commissioning process.

Listening to the live webcast, I was struck by the tone of voice in which he said it - as though it were self-evidently good news.

I wonder. 

Discussing the way the history of psychiatry in America is written, David J. Rothman once said:

It was apparent and unmistakable that the reforms of one generation became the scandals of the next. Historians had explored their materials with a curious myopia. First they applauded the reformers who designed the system, then they applauded the reformers who exposed the system, and then they applauded the reformers who designed a new system – and the circle moved round on itself.

There is a danger that this cycle will also operate in the treatment of children in public care. Whether because of the scandals of recent decades or because they are seen as too expensive, council-run children's homes are disappearing and care is increasingly being provided by the private sector.

Already there are signs that this is where the new scandals will occur. Martin Barrow tweets daily about the worrying things revealed by Ofsted inspections of this mutli-million pound industry whose rise taken place with remarkably little public debate.

I hope Leicestershire does choose its external providers after a "rigorous commissioning process," but I wonder if a better response to its shameful history would be to run good children's homes rather than give up the attempt altogether.


Frank Little said...

Suspicious precision in that legal statement - are there any LCC-run homes outwith the county?

Jonathan Calder said...

I've never heard of that here, but I believe London boroughs used to do it.