Children’s Care Homes: Reform Debate

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Department: Department for Education
Monday 20th November 2023

(6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to reform the system of children’s care homes.

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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My Lords, we want all looked-after children to live in stable, loving homes where they are safe and cared for. We are taking forward the commitments already made to improve the quality and consistency of safeguards across residential settings through new standards of care; to develop a new financial oversight regime for the market; to increase provision; and to take steps to ensure a stable and skilled children’s home workforce.

Lord Bach Portrait Lord Bach (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer. What is obvious, I am afraid, is how desperately unambitious the Government have been in reforming a broken system. In spite of the commitment of all who work in this area, it is a system that adversely affects the life chances of the most vulnerable children in our society. Is the Minister aware, as reported in the Observer on 8 October, that the 20 largest private operators of children’s homes, 10 of which have private equity or sovereign fund ownership, made a £300 million profit—I repeat: £300 million—last year, at the same time as local authority spending was being squeezed? Does the Minister agree that this is just plain wrong? What urgent steps will the Government take to stop so obvious an outrage happening again this year?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I do not accept the noble Lord’s assertion that the Government’s plans are unambitious, but I do recognise some of the concerns he raises about profiteering, which, as he knows, we would distinguish from being profitable. We are particularly concerned about those larger providers which have complex and sometimes very opaque ownership structures. That is why we want to bring much greater transparency to the market.