Monetising children in care is morally bankrupt

<span>‘It is time the Labour party … promises to legislate to outlaw profit from children’s social care’.</span><span>Photograph: Alamy</span>
‘It is time the Labour party … promises to legislate to outlaw profit from children’s social care’.Photograph: Alamy

George Monbiot is right to highlight the state of the free market in children’s social care (How can a child in care cost £281,000 a year? Ask the wealth funds that have councils over a barrel, 18 May). With more children in care now than ever before, children’s residential and foster care provision is a lucrative cash cow for hedge funds and asset management companies, using taxpayers’ money to profiteer from the lives of children in care.

However, there is a glimmer of hope. A small number of independent fostering agencies are charities, providing services on a not-for-profit basis. Working alongside local authorities, with no shareholders to enrich, not‑for-profit fostering agencies reinvest surplus funds back into their organisation to fund activities, educational support, and therapeutic interventions for their children. They also fund training and financial support for their foster carers, and activities such as holidays for children with disabilities and additional needs. This model should be the rule, rather than the exception for the whole sector.

The Welsh government has taken the bold step to eliminate profit from the care of looked-after children by the end of its term, in 2027. It was never likely that the current government in Westminster would side with children over hedge funds and private equity, and follow their example. But surely it’s time the Labour party pledges to do the same, and promises to legislate to outlaw profit from children’s social care, once and for all?
David Scattergood
Stockport, Greater Manchester

• George Monbiot paints a shocking picture of Britain’s childcare sector. I wonder how our government squares this with our international obligations under the Commonwealth Kigali declaration on child care and protection reform to which we committed in June 2022? This calls for the progressive de-institutionalisation of childcare by phasing out children’s homes, orphanages and the like and redirecting resources to family and community-based care services with adequate training and support for caregivers and robust screening and oversight mechanisms. The declaration follows on directly from the UN general assembly resolution in 2019 addressing the rights of children without parental care, to which the UK also subscribed. Our government frequently bangs on about human rights in other countries, while seemingly being less than assiduous in carrying out our own commitments under international conventions.
Peter RC Williams
Ely, Cambridgeshire

• George Monbiot asks the right question, but provides only half the answer. Of course, obscene profiteering by private corporations must end – it should never have been allowed. But so must the unwarranted removal of thousands of children.

Professionals who think they know best take children from loving mothers not on evidence of actual harm but on sexist, racist and classist assumptions of possible “future emotional harm”. Low-income mums – especially if we are single, of colour, immigrant, have suffered domestic violence and/or grown up “in care” – are 10 times more likely to have our kids removed, 54 times if we have a learning disability, causing lifelong trauma to both children and mothers, even suicide.

A reason is that section 17 of the Children Act and section 12 of the Care Act, which provide resources for children “in need” to stay with their families, are discretionary and therefore not implemented, while section 47 on “child protection” (usually removal) is statutory. So, the vital bond between mother and child is denied in favour of fostering, institutional care and forced adoptions, regardless of “outcome”.

Getting central and local authorities to prioritise the financial support that mothers need and are entitled to is essential to ending the corporate stranglehold that is bankrupting councils. Only the growing mothers’ movement can enable such a humane shift.
Nina Lopez Support Not Separation, Tracey Norton Disabled Mothers’ Rights Campaign

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