Liberal Democrat MP Sarah Teather is Minister for Children and Families, and is responsible for some 14 areas listed on the government’s education website. These include childcare, children’s centers, health issues, school food disabled children and more. One of her key responsibilities is “Children’s services commissioning and market development”.
To most people this phrase reeks of commercial activity, money and profits - yes, the commissioning of contracts and the development of markets. Is the British government really involved in making money from the protection and care of children and families? The answer is you bet, and what’s more they don’t like talking about it.
Sarah Teather was recently sent a simple email by the UK Column:
I note that included in your responsibilities as Minister of State for Children and Families is the responsibility of: ‘Children’s services commissioning and market development.’ Please could you explain exactly what this responsibility involves, particularly with regard to how children and the related services are a commercial enterprise requiring ‘market development’.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not, Ms Teather was slow to reply. The UK Column therefore emailed the Liberal Democrat press team headed by James Holt. In due course a reply was received not from Mr Holt, but from Sarah Derwent, Chief Press Officer for the Department of Children and Families. She replied, copying her email to Matt Saunders of the Cabinet Office:
Local Authorities are responsible for commissioning services for children and young people. As part of their commissioning process, they need to effectively manage markets to ensure provision (public, voluntary or private) meets needs in order to improve outcomes for children and young people.
Her reply was of course waffle. The UK Column replied directly to Ms Teather herself:
Sarah [Derwent’s] reply is woefully inadequate and written in nu-speak. Having spoken to Sarah she either does not have the necessary mental acumen or is totally unaware of the huge growth in commercial activity around children and children’s services, and does not know her subject - I therefore return to my original question which is directed at your personal ministerial role and not that of Local Authorities.
Shirking ministerial and personal responsibility and accountability, Ms Teather MP relied once again on Sarah Derwent to give a better response:
A DfE spokesperson said - The well being of children is our priority, the Department for Education wants to make sure all children are safe and receive the best possible services. Across the country, the statutory, voluntary and private sectors all deliver a wide variety of high quality children’s services. The decision of who to commission to provide services is a matter for local authorities.
The UK Column would like to point out that Ms Teather has still not answered the original question which simply asked what her actual ministerial responsibilities are. Neither has a response come from Francis Maude’s Cabinet Office - part of a government which was to be as transparent as possible. Could the unease at this question be due to Memorandums of Understanding between the Family Law Division and Cafcass, or the vast fees paid to Judges, Courts, barristers, solicitors, psychiatrists, psychologists, care centres, contact centres and charities estimated at £20 billion per year?
Or could it be because British children are now being trafficked to the ‘care’ of foreign parents world wide under new ‘child protection’ procedures in partnership with Cara India? Kent County Council alone spent £104,748 during 2010/11 on adoption matters in Nigeria, Colombia, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Thailand. Commissioning and Markets in children - Just why is the British Government child trafficking Ms Teather?