Thursday, 5 June 2014

Contract for Independent Supporters: is anyone going to involve parents?

We have written before on the Government's intention to spend £30 million introducing Independent Supporters as a short-term fix to help LAs shift parents on to Education, Health and Care Plans. Read more  here.

The Department of Education (DfE) has previously confirmed that 'the role of Independent Supporters is not to challenge LA decisions' which seems far removed from their initial grandiose claims about 'Parent Champions'.

To clarify the role of these 'supporters', we wrote to the Department of Education on several occasions asking for further information. We have done this because:

(i)We believe that public expenditure requires the very highest levels of transparency and oversight particularly when non-state organisations like charities who are not subject to the same levels of public accountability as the state agree to implement legal reforms for the Government.

(ii) We believe that parents should not be seen as passive recipients in the process of creating their  'Champions'. This is patronising and paternalistic and it leads to concerns that Independent Supporters have been established to benefit the 'system' rather than the individuals stuck in it.

Today, we have received a copy of the CDC's contract for undertaking the Independent Supporters' work. We requested this as the DfE had indicated it contained details of how the scheme will work.

The contract was intially significantly redacted but we have now received a copy with fewer redactions. The redactions which remain have been made under s 43 FOIA on the grounds that:

"publishing the detailed breakdown would allow competitors to have access to the cost structure and financial modelling, which could be used in any subsequent competitive process. This would be unfairly harmful to CDC’s commercial interests and place them at a disadvantage with other potential suppliers. We would not expect other suppliers to disclose this level of detail to potential competitors."

The contract was not put out to competitive tender and it is not clear who these 'competitors' are. The DfE seems unwilling to engage on this point further.

The contract can be read here. There appears to be little intention to involve parents in the planning for this service.

It should also be noted that we asked all those charities involved in consultation with the Government prior to this announcement to share their views. We have asked them more than once.

Disappointingly, none have responded.

Those organisations are:

Action for Children
Contact a Family
The Council for Disabled Children
The National Network of Parent carer Forums
The National Development Team for Inclusion
The Together Trust

No comments:

Post a Comment