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Proposed limits to delegation of child social care functions to non-profit bodies

25 June 2014

Amended draft regulations (going before Parliament over the summer) limit the extent that children’s social care functions can be delegated so local authorities (LAs) can only delegate to non-profit-making organisations. The proposed amendment responds to a DfE consultation which highlighted concerns including the fact that LAs may be motivated (even if by budgetary necessity) by cost rather than quality; and also the dilution of LA accountability to service users.

Authorities will remain accountable to service users for delegated functions – as is evident from the Supreme Court’s decision in Woodland v Essex County Council 2013. We have seen in the education sphere the challenges that could arise, with the recent Trojan Horse affair, resulting in calls for the LA to step in where problems arise in academy/free schools, and it seems inescapable that the LA will always ultimately pick up the pieces.

Challenges do however invite innovation. Some authorities are already looking at creating mutualised structures. The LA landscape certainly continues to move and authorities must share their ideas and experiences to find the optimum route so they can be confident with their delegated arrangements for the protection both of vulnerable services users and the authority.

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