Times are Hard

Posted on July 22nd, 2011

The restrictive capping of ISW fees by the LSC, the Government slashing of services for the most vulnerable of citizens and local authorities requesting staff to take pay cuts in order to hold on to their jobs have all been well published.  Some of these issues have reached the front pages of the tabloid newspapers.  However, a piece of research on fraud in the public sector only seems to have reached page 32 of The Independent on 18.07.11.

The research states that public sector fraud was worth £431 million last year and little had been done to curb this wastage.  Figures within the research suggest that fraud in the private sector had decreased, which given the recent events surrounding Rupert Murdock’s News International is surprising.  The Serious Fraud Office has been asked to investigate whether News International breached company law when it paid to settle lawsuits in the aftermath of the original 2005-6 Police inquiry.  Ms Rebekah Brooks, the chief executive of the News International was arrested and released on bail in connection with journalists bribing police officers.

Could we see the Serious Fraud squad entering the offices of senior local authority managers? Will we see these managers led away under police escort? Given that there is a belief that 90% of fraud goes unreported, could a clamp down on public sector fraud see some services reinstated? Say for instance for disabled service users. Surely a reduction of £431 million could be used to provide more Social Workers at a decent pay rate?

We will monitor the situation to see if any local authorities publicly declare any acts of fraud.  The likelihood of this happening is slim as it will further reduce the status and confidence in the Government’s ability to effectively manage the public sector.

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Narey to make changes to adoption process

Posted on July 6th, 2011

The following article by Andy Bloxham was in The Times on 5 July 2011.

Martin Narey, Britain’s first “adoption czar”, has produced a landmark report of conclusions on how the “hopelessly slow” adoption system can be overhauled.  His recommendations include several major changes, including removing the presumption that extended family members can automatically be the best carers for a neglected child. Mr Narey, 55, the former chief executive of Barnardo’s, also said extended family members should not be so exhaustively tested ahead of a potential adoption.

His report also recommended that drug addicted teenagers who fall pregnant should be offered adoption; that abused children should be placed with potential adoptive parents immediately; and that councils should be ranked in league tables on their performance.

Mr Narey, who is also the former head of the Prison Service, was commissioned by The Times in January to examine the adoption system. He has been appointed the Ministerial Adviser on Adoption to improve the system and identify confusion and waste in the courts and local authorities, which administer the adoption system. The report will form the basis of his strategy in his new role.

Among the high-profile public figures who have been adopted are Debbie Harry, the singer, Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, and John Nettles, the star of the television detective programme Midsomer Murders.

Local authorities have repeatedly been criticised for bias on ethnic grounds – both for refusing white couples who want to adopt, and for failing to find homes for black children and those from ethnic minorities. The number of children being adopted has fallen close to its record low.

Only 3,200 were adopted from care last year and fewer are expected to be adopted this year. At the same time, the average time taken between a child being removed from its natural parents and being adopted has grown to two years and seven months. Only 10 per cent of black children in care are adopted compared with 35 per cent of white children. Last year only 70 children under a year old were adopted compared with 4,000 in 1976. In general, the likelihood of a child being successfully adopted after the age of five drops rapidly. There have been suggestions that some councils stop even attempting to place children over that age with new families.

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