Last month, a Root and Branch Review called for a multi-billion pound transformation of children’s social care in England in order to reform a system that is “spiraling out of control”. Whilst vastly critical, unfortunately this report neither came as a shock or without cause.
As it stands, the sector’s reputation has long been fighting an uphill battle against a narrative typically characterized by inequality in access to care, escalating demands and a lack of national direction, alongside recruitment challenges and enquiries into the failings for the most vulnerable children. For private companies, this only intensifies with many questioning the place of private capital in the provision of children’s social care – not to mention concerns around profits and a wider disconnect between the Government, businesses, and their staff.
In order to address these issues and redirect this current narrative, first we must remember the vital role the sector plays in the UK.
Out of the 12 million children living in England, around 400,000 are in the social care system at any one time. As local authority provisions have failed to keep pace with rising demand, care for some of the countries most vulnerable children has increasingly fallen to the private sector. In fact, between 2011 and 2019, the number of children in care rose by 11,000 and 73 per cent of those individuals were cared for by private organisations.
Now, amid the cost-of-living crisis, soaring inflation, and burgeoning energy poverty, pressure on local services is expected to intensify, and so too will the importance of private sector provisions.
With 33 per cent of all private children’s care homes owned and run by the top 10 companies, unfortunately the perception of an industry run by monopolistic power has taken hold. However, despite accounts of a few mismanaged business ventures, there are many more that are providing an exceptional level of care – supporting families in some of the most challenging circumstances, creating an environment in which children can thrive and backed by the best intentions.
Amid ongoing market uncertainty, escalating talent wars and a heightened social conscience, businesses across all sectors are being put under pressure like never before and children’s social care providers in the private sector are by no means exempt. Therefore, these private organisations will need to prioritize their reputation, assess their moral objectives, and redefine their purpose – both to the public, impacted families and key investors – to ensure business success.
Alongside this shift in focus, business leaders will need to look inwards. Attention to employee wellbeing, environment and social governance, and broader recruitment and retention practices will be vital to help build a positive rapport, whilst ensuring the company keeps pace with evolving priorities.
The potential is there – from disseminating positive company news and profiling key stakeholders, to instigating local and charity partnerships, a concise and proactive communications strategy can support private providers of children’s social care to navigate this challenging landscape, develop positive relationships and stand out from market competitors.
Without major reform, it is estimated that the number of children needing foster care alone is set to rise by almost a third by 2030. Therefore, there is not just a business case for the growth and success of children’s care providers in the private sector but a social one to. Time is very much of the essence and simply put, an impactful marketing and communications strategy will prove pivotal.
If you’d like to discuss how a proactive strategic communications strategy could position your business as driver of real change